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Verdi being my first kid, I’m harder on him than the others. He is kind of robot-like, and just quiet, not the type to trade in feelings. I don’t believe that praise culture has exactly been a good thing. Between these three things, I rarely compliment my almost thirteen-year-old.

But compliments and praise are a major mood stabilizer. At 12/13 you are trying to figure out who you are and taking so seriously anything anyone says. Crazy teen brain makes people wonder if anyone appreciates them. Verdi has really seriously earned some praise; he is a great kid. Plus, crazy teen brain makes me and Verdi argue a lot more than any other kind of more positive dialogue and sometimes crowds it out altogether. So to deal with all this, I have been aiming to, at least once a day, tell my kid something I liked about what he did that day.

I’m noticing that, “I’m proud of you for ____,” just kind of rolls off him. I imagine the body language he responds to it with to mean, ‘whatever, Mama, I don’t need YOU to be proud of me’. I’m trying to keep it connected to things he chooses to do each day but I’m not sure if I should stick with, “I’m proud of you for ___” despite his shrugging it off, or try, “It made [someone] feel good when you _____” or go for a more abstract, “You demonstrated the virtue of ____ when you ___.”

Probably I’m overthinking it and anything will do. I just don’t want Verdi to think that I think his goal in life should be to make me proud or make me feel good, and I’m not sure how to phrase compliments to prevent that from being the unwritten standard.

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