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13 of the Best Compliments You Can Ever Give a Parent

Compliments—from spouses, strangers, even our own offspring—are little treasures for parents, who work tirelessly to get it all exactly right. Here, moms and dads share the words that moved them most.

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“Your son never gives up.”

Helicopters or not, parents are programmed to help their kids—with even the seemingly inconsequential stuff—and fighting the urge to swoop in can take serious restraint. But, wow, seeing our littles persevere—and succeed!—all on their own is truly something to behold. Which is why Grace, mother of two, chose to capture such a moment on film: “When my sister saw the video of my then 2-year-old working very hard to package himself up inside a large box, she said, ‘The fact that he kept working at that box, even though it was difficult, shows me he is going to do well in life. He just never gave up. You did that! You gave him those skills.’ At the time, I’d just seen his actions as comedic—the box kept popping open in different places, with packing peanuts flying everywhere, and it went on for quite a while—but my sister’s words brought tears to my eyes. My siblings and I were raised by our severely mentally ill mother after our dad took off, and for me, raising a happy, mentally healthy child is the most important thing in the world. My sister’s compliment helped me realize for the first time: Yes, I am doing it.” Find out the 17 secrets of happy families.

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“You’re my favorite person.”

When kids are small, being their favorite is a bittersweet privilege, as it usually comes with extra duties and zero alone time. (No! Mama do it!) But imagine retaining the title of favorite even once your baby is on the cusp of adulthood. “My 18-year-old gay daughter told me, totally out of the blue, that I was her favorite person in the world,” says Kirsche, mother of five kids ages 15 to 33. “It’s wonderfully special to be someone’s favorite. And now when we disagree about something, or she’s not happy with what I have to say, I think back to her sweet comment, and it helps me get over those little bumps.” Find out advice for raising an emotionally intelligent child.

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“Good job, Mom!”

The three little words we long to hear can change dramatically post-pregnancy—as was the case for Petra, a mom of three. “Soon after my second was born, I was wearing her in a carrier while my 21-month-old got shots during a physical. I had brought a lollipop as a distraction, and gave it to her right as she started crying. Our pediatrician said, ‘Good job, Mom.’ Having someone appreciate how much foresight and organization it had taken me to remember that stupid lollipop—and locate it in the diaper bag at the precise moment my daughter needed it—brought literal tears to my eyes. It also made me realize how infrequently parents get props for the difficult job we do 24/7. Now I compliment my friends on their simple-yet-shining parenting moments all the time.” Micaela, another mom of three, received her dose of validation in an equally harrowing situation—the checkout line at Target. “All three boys were talking, asking for the Star Wars LEGO pack by the register, firing off questions, when an older woman behind us with a kind face said, ‘You’re doing great, Mom. It’s a tough job, but they seem like really good boys.’ She could see I was hanging by a string, trying to unload the cart, deflect requests, manage manners, keep the baby from mouthing the cart, and make sure nobody got lost or stolen! It’s exhausting, and that woman’s words made me feel like, ‘OK, I got this!'” (Find out the 17 things every parent of young kids wants to tell you.)

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“Your child is a good friend.”

In an age of bullies and mean girls run amok, hearing that your kid is a good friend will inspire some serious emoji hands to the sky. “The morning after a school lock-in, another parent took the time to praise my son,” remembers Todd, dad of two. “He said there was a group of kids playing a video game—one that his boys had never played before, so they weren’t doing well. When an older boy began to tease them, my son intervened, telling him to back off, and saying that’s no way to act around younger kids. The father appreciated my son sticking up for his boys—and his compliment meant so much, because it showed me that some of the life lessons we try to teach are actually getting through to him.” Christine, a mom of one, felt a similar sense of pride when her son, completely unprompted, joined a little girl sitting alone in the cafeteria for lunch. “That night, the girl’s mom texted us a thank you, and said my Jack saved her daughter from tears of embarrassment.” Likewise, learning that her daughter goes out of her way to buck preschool cliquishness—because, yes, it does exist!—left Kathleen, a mother of two, beaming for days. “It’s hugely important for us to instill a sense of acceptance in our kids, so when Izzy’s teacher said, ‘She’s a good friend to everybody, and she stays out of the drama,’ I couldn’t have been happier.” Worried that your child is the bully? Here are signs to watch out for.

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“You’re going to make an amazing mom.”

Nobody appreciates a confidence-boosting compliment quite like an anxious, untested mom. “The best one I’ve ever received came from a co-worker when I was pregnant,” says Brittany, mom to one baby boy. “I was telling her I was nervous about being a good mother, and she gave me a crazy look, and said, ‘You take such good care of everyone in the office, and we’re not even your kids. You’re going to be an amazing mom!’ Her words gave me such a warm feeling then, and I still carry them around with me now.” On the flip side, here are 11 things never to say to a pregnant woman.

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“You’re so calm!”

Whether you’re a natural at creating order from kid-induced chaos, or you battle to appear unflappable amid tantrums and tumult, personifying calm—and having someone take note—is the parental dream. Extra points if you’re a zen master with multiple kids, like Bryce, a mom of four, who says, “My neighbor, a fellow mom, stopped me on the street recently to say how calm I always seem around the kids, and nothing in the world could’ve made all those times I struggled to keep it together, and not yell, more worth it.” Find out how to raise a happy child.

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“How do you do it?”

There is perhaps no balancing act more delicate than that of motherhood, so having someone praise our juggling skills is pretty much everything—especially if that someone is a handsome stranger. “I was on the bike path, jogging with a double stroller—my then 3- and 1.5-year-old inside—and our big, strong dog,” recalls Micaela, mom of three. “A man running in the opposite direction stopped for brief moment, and said, ‘Wow, nice work! I can’t imagine how you’re doing all that. You’re awesome!’ Having him acknowledge that what I was doing was, indeed, challenging, and that I appeared to be pulling it off? Well, I got an extra half mile out of that compliment.”

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“I love how you speak to your children.”

With the day-to-day frenzy of work and school, and the constant shuttling and scheduling, it’s all too easy to sometimes be dismissive or curt with our kids, to bark orders in hopes of being heard above the din. “So much of life is hurried speech, and when you get a chance to speak gently, warmly, and lovingly to your children, it’s basically a miracle,” says Bryce, a mom of four. Adds Lindsey, mother of two, “A mom at the park told me, ‘I love how you talk to your daughter like she’s an adult.’ I don’t even remember what I was saying, but I do generally converse with my 3.5-year-old daughter this way, and it felt nice for someone to notice.”

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“He’s very mature.”

Our end game in this whole child-rearing thing is to someday be able to release into the world fully formed humans who can adult with the best of them. And Brian, dad of two, seems to be on the right track. “At a parent-teacher conference for our oldest son, who is in fourth grade, his teacher told us, ‘He’s so adult. Whenever we have a prospective student visit our classroom, I always have Will be the chaperone.’ Obviously no one wants his kid to grow up too fast, but it was wonderful to hear that ours, at age 10, is shining in these kinds of situations because he is so kind and put-together.”

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“Your kids are so polite!”

What’s the magic word? Say, thank you. Share and play nice! We are all amateur Emily Posts—constant coaches of etiquette, consideration, and respect. Yet, as Sara, a mom of two preschoolers and a teenager, puts it, “Despite all of my correction and training, most of the time I wonder if I’m raising animals instead of children. So, hearing that other people are impressed with my kids’ manners, behavior, and social skills lets me know that I’m not doing as bad of a job as I usually think I am.” (Here are 17 forgotten manners you should be teaching your children.)

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“Your son turned me into a kid person.”

Kids are loud. Sticky. Exhausting. Expensive. (Insert thank-God-they’re-cute cliché here.) Some people just aren’t that into them. But we’ve all met the converts who swore they’d never go there, and then—bam!—they’re trading their Mini Cooper for a minivan. According to mom-of-two Vanessa, her kid has helped facilitate this sort of 360—and more than once. “Friends will tell me, ‘I wasn’t sure I wanted kids, but since I’ve met your son, I’m thinking it might be OK.’ I take it to mean I’m raising children who are funny, interesting, and easy to be around. They have personalities that shine through regardless of their age or struggles of the moment. And there are many challenges, so it is nice to hear that my child brings someone else joy, and helps them imagine themselves as a mom or dad.”

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“Superdad!”

While dads are often portrayed onscreen as bumbling or straight-up inept, the ones we know IRL are totally killing it—even under trying circumstances. “My oldest is 12. He was born with half a brain, and is always in a wheelchair or stroller. But there are no limitations for us as a family, and we push the boundaries,” says Erik, a dad of three. “I’m often out in public with him and at least one of his siblings. One day, I was wheeling him out of Supercuts with my other kids, and a woman kindly commented, “Superdad!” Later, leaving another store, it was, “You’re a great dad!” It’s nice to hear, and this seems to happen a fair amount, but I often wonder, Why am I getting all these compliments for being a dad, yet no one ever makes similar comments to my wife? I’ve compared notes with other special-needs dad friends, and they all say the same. It seems like the bar is just set lower for dads.”

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“You give your kids the freedom to be themselves.”

Kids can be as unruly as a headful of curls on an August afternoon in Louisiana, but we can’t allow our efforts to tame and shape them dampen their spirits or individuality, as Adam, a dad of three, reminds us. “The twins and their younger brother often get complimented, as children do, on how cute they are, but the very best feedback we get is when people notice their essence, as we try to let them be who they are, rather than train them as obedient little robots.”