Like all parents, I love to hear good stuff about my kids. I think my kids are the best, but I recognize that I am completely biased, so it's nice when others agree. Especially when they accomplish something that is seriously challenging for them or work really hard on a project or skill. However, I do have some basic rules for complimenting my kids.
You see, I don't want my kids to get the wrong the idea about what makes them awesome, and I don't want them to start valuing things like their appearance or pants' size over effort and overcoming adversity. Thin is not a value. Pretty is subjective. Both girls and boys should be praised equally for effort and accomplishments, even for things that are not stereotypically associated with their gender and especially when it's a hard thing for them. I would actually prefer if people get to know my kids before they complimented them. Compliments they have received from strangers in the check out line include: "You are so pretty", "What a big boy!" and "Your daughter has beautiful curls" (about my son). Excuse me while I vomit. I do appreciate the kind words about how helpful and polite my kids are. I try. Still, sometimes even those feel empty.
The most important thing I try to remember is to recognize that kids are little sponges, and they learn to see themselves as reflections of what we say and do when they are around. My heart breaks when my daughter cries because she thinks she's stupid, my stepdaughter thinks she needs to lose weight, and my4-year-old son wants a haircut because someone said he looks like a girl. They internalize everything. They also know when people are being insincere, but they don't always understand how sarcasm works. In other words, it's important to be real.
Bottom line: our kids deserve respect, to feel good, and to be acknowledged for the right things. In order to accommodate those necessities, please follow the following rules when complimenting my children (or anyone else's children, actually).