Last Updated on March 20, 2018

After a long and wearying day of traveling with our three children (6, 4, and 2), we were anxiously waiting to disembark at our final destination. I couldn’t have been more ready to get off the plane.

All three children had been especially whiny and antsy that day. I was sure everyone around us was desperate to get off, too, after being unwittingly subjected to over an hour of fussing, loud, and animated youngsters.

The stress levels continued to rise in me as the minutes ticked on and the decibels of whining increased. I was poised for someone to turn around and let out an exasperated sigh or give me a very sharp “what-were-you-thinking-bringing-these-unruly-children-on-this-flight?” look.

Just when I was feeling overcome with anxiety, a woman with perfectly coiffed hair and impeccable makeup turned around and looked at me. Here it comes, I thought, fully expecting an ugly look or worse.

Instead, she smiled and said, “Your children have been amazing on the flight. I’m so impressed.”

Truth be told, I sincerely thought she was joking. But no, I quickly realized her comment was completely genuine and heartfelt.

She went on, “Every time I looked back, they were just sitting back there like perfect little adults. I don’t know how you’ve trained them so well to behave like that!”

I’m not sure whether she could sense my stress level and was just trying to encourage me, but regardless, her words meant the world to me. Within minutes, my frustrations melted away.

I looked at my children and smiled. Maybe they weren’t as calm and sweet as I would have liked, but they are just children, they were out of their routine, it had been a long day, and I needed to give them grace.

I sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the remaining few minutes on board and left–all three children in tow–with a spring in my step instead of a heaviness in my heart.

Our words can have a powerful impact–to either encourage or discourage. If the woman had turned back, shot me a disapproving look, and muttered something about my “terrible children,” I would have felt like a complete failure. Instead, her kind words uplifted my spirit when I needed it most.

I hope to follow this woman’s example and pass on warm words of hope and encouragement the next time I see a young mom who is struggling. Who knows? It may just completely change her outlook and attitude as it did mine. One thing is for sure, it will do a lot more good than pointing a finger, giving a ugly look, or criticizing.

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  1. You're right! It's amazing what a kind word can do for one's spirit.

  2. i have often had this happen to me. i have 4 children, my 3 littles are 6,5,3. so often i go out and think they are misbehaving and then someone will say something really nice about my children and it makes me come back to reality and say they are just children and i can't expect perfertion. totally changes my mood and sets it to positive. i also do this with my children when we are out and they are doing good i make sure to say something really nice to them to help lift them and encourage the good behavor.

  3. I still remember the time someone complimented my mom on how well behaved I was at a china shop. Now I try to compliment moms when I notice their kids behaving well. I know I feel good when anyone says something nce about my toddler!

  4. Pingback: The Impact of a Kind Word | MoneyBold
  5. I just figured out speaking kind words is my gift. So I try to encourage and compliment whenever I notice anything great be it someones kids, or a friend's new haircut.

  6. After reading this, I'm looking back at the many times that I have thought how well behaved or delightful a child was, or even a few times when I was impressed at how well a mother got her grouchy child back to more or less neutral. I never said anything, just observed and went on my way. Now I realize how much it might have meant to the mother to hear a word of encouragement. Next time, they'll at least get an encouraging smile from me, even if I do feel too shy to say anything.

  7. I've been in the exact same situation on airplanes or in other places. I have been so thankful for others who helped me to look at my children differently, and relax my own expectations. It's amazing the difference a kind word can make!

  8. We just talked about this in my MOPs group and were challenged to give other mom's compliments on their children. I tried it the other day and the other mom was in shock that I said her son is always so polite and sweet everytime I see him. As moms we know all their little faults, but others get to enjoy the good in our children. We need to do the same.

  9. That makes up for the people who roll their eyes and sigh deeply when they get seated near children, doesn't it?

  10. I had the exact opposite happen when we went on a family outing to the park. There is a long fence the length of the park and two entrances on either end. When we got there, my 2 yo ran in the first entrance and my 4 year old continued to ride his trike up to the second entrance a good distance away. I was immediately caught between the two making sure my 2 yo didn't back track while trying to get my 4 yo into the park. When they were finally both inside the fence safely, I walked around and smiled at another woman at the park. She then asked "are those your children?" To which I smiled and said yes. She then exclaimed "well you're lucky someone didn't call the cops on you!"
    That one statement ruined my entire day. From being excited to take my kids to the park, I plummeted to feeling like the worst mother on earth, let alone angry and hurt by this woman. That one sentence still hurts every time I think about it and I sincerely hope that I can learn from this never to put another young mother through such a thing…I really was doing the best I could, just as so many other mothers.

  11. Carollynn McMahan says:

    I now have a college freshman and an eighth grader, but I remember those days with two little ones, diaper bags, and all the little frustrations. Now, when I see a young mom of little ones out in public having a stressful moment, I'm most likely to say, "I know it seems difficult righ now, but enjoy every moment, even this one, because when you blink your eye he/she will be moving away to college and you'll wish he/she were home making a mess in your kitchen cabinets!" I laugh and smile, with a little tear for myself, missing my 18 year old "baby"!

  12. One thing I have realized that also helps me in stressful mommy-situations is having REALISTIC expectations of how my children should behave. A kind encouraging word does certainly help, too :).

  13. How true these words are! Reminds me of this verse:
    A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11

    I've found that when I hear a temper tantrum in the grocery store and proceed to judge that parent, it's usually less than 24 hours before I'm dealing with the same scenario! I think next time, I'll seek out that parent, and share some "apples of gold".

    A little grace goes a long way! 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement!

  14. Such a good reminder. I am far too quick to judge and far too slow to give grace. I'm thankful my Heavenly Father is not the same with me. Thanks for the example to follow. . .

  15. We put so much on ourselves that sometimes we forget that our kids really aren't THAT BAD. 🙂

  16. Mother Lydia says:

    My sister rewards her kids when they get a unprompted compliment when out and about on shopping trips.

  17. I’m so glad that there are people out there who aren’t too bashful to speak words of encouragement to strangers.

    Your story is very convicting!

  18. Kentucky_Lea says:

    When I was 7 or 8 months pregnant with our second child my husband, son and I were at Barnes & Noble enjoying a special Starbucks treat and looking over some store material when our son accidentally tipped his hot chocolate all over the table and 2 magazines. He was instantly apologetic but my husband and I handled it with grace and told him accidents happen, the table really was a bit too small for 3 people, 3 books/magazines and 3 people, and we quickly and efficiently cleaned up the mess , purchased the 2 damaged magazines and replaced our son's cocoa. The woman at the table next to us took in the whole ordeal and commented on her way out that she was very impressed with how we handled the situation, that she wished more parents were like us and that our expectant child was sure to be blessed with parents like us. Those kind words 6 years ago have saved my now 4 children from more than a few outbursts from me when times get harry – it is amazing how a few kind words can not only encourage you in the moment but help to shape interactions for years to come!

  19. I was thinking about this, only the opposite this morning. I think I may be too critical in the mornings when we're all getting ready for school. I have to ask my 8 yr. old daughter almost every morning if she has combed her hair, because it looks very messy. This morning, I told her that her hair looked very nice. She told me mine was messy. Granted it does need a cut… but I didn't like the comment very much. Then I thought about how it must make her feel when I criticize her hair most days. No wonder she has been criticizing things. It made me aware. Just as a positive comment like you experienced can have a good impact, a negative comment like mine can be very damaging. Especially because I continually repeat them. I need to work on this for sure.

  20. I used to be a silent judger-my first was a very easy baby and an even easier toddler. Maybe it was because he was very verbal early on and never had to get frustrated because he couldn't explain what he wanted. I don't know…..Anyway, I remember sitting in silent judgement on other mothers.
    Then I had my second. From the time he was 18months until he was about 5, he went through the most extended case of terrible twos known to man. He was willful and stubborn. He had a speech delay and an attention, "issue," and rock throwing and biting phases. We wouldn't trade him for the world, but being his mother has definitely humbled me and taught me to be more gracious and loving towards other mothers.
    I now try my hardest not to judge and to meet the moms around me with love.
    Thanks for the reminder to also pass on words of praise. I tend to be shy, but this is a good nudge to be a light to others.

  21. I try really hard to smile at frustrated parents out shopping or running errands whose children are whiny and uncooperative, especially the really really young children. It's always a "yeah, I've been there and done that, I know what you're going through" kind of smile that, hopefully, reassures the parents that I am not critical but sympathetic!

  22. Crystal..My mommy days are over, however your blogging & your website gives me great encouragement in this world of unrest. And your dedication to your family,children & God, is very uplifting to me..May you know that your not only reaching young women in society,but older women like myself..Blessings to you & your family…

  23. Motherof6cuties says:

    My six children(12-3) know that we have a silent game of 'get the compliment'. It is very rare for someone not to stop us and say something positive. The kids live for this, and it always lifts my heart.

  24. On a site I visit, there is a big discussion about how people shouldn't bring their kids out to restaurants to bother others. Well, adults bother ME all the time and they are allowed out in public why expect perfection from kids and adults have no reins on their behavior?

    That being said, I find a kind word, or several does wonders for our own kids. I think as parents we are often so quick to criticize, to see the bad, to want to help our kids be better by correcting, we forget to point out the good. The other night I went to my son who was playing nicely and said seriously "I have something to talk to you about" He kinda looked down and I sat next to him and went through a list of all the things I enjoy about him and that make me proud of him and he should be of himself. He was so thrilled. I want to do that more. Its so fun to just look for the good and point it out. If we can do it with strangers why not our own family?

  25. I am no longer in young mom stage; my sons are in their 20s. When I see a young family having a hard time with young ones, I smile and remind them that the “days are long, but the years are short.” It makes one pause because it is so true. I have had mothers thank me for reminding them that this stage won’t last forever. I feel as an “older mom” I need to encourage them and often wish someone had said something nice to me when I was out and about with two boys.

  26. i enjoyied the encouragements, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated when your out with the kids. it’s nice to hear a your doing a good job sometimes.

  27. I am a mother to 3 children, ages 35, 33, and 19. I remember when, as a 4 year old, my son was being noisy in the church balcony. I felt very anxious about the whole thing. Then a friend of our family (a single male) said to me, "He wasn't bothering me; I think the mothers are more upset by their childrens' behavior than most others are." And he said it with a smile. I left church smiling that day too.