One thing I was told all the time when I was growing up that I don’t think is a compliment at all is “my goodness aren’t you an old soul!” I know it was well meaning and they meant something like “well, aren’t you mature” or “you seem wise beyond your years”, but none of those are compliments. Being an “old soul” or “wise beyond your years” or “mature for your age” isn’t a good thing for a child. A child is supposed to be a child. What you see as something impressive I see as something sad. That child is only those things because that child has to be. They didn’t get the opportunity to just be a kid. That child is sad. That child has been broken. That child has been traumatized beyond your comprehension. That child has been given too much responsibility too fast. That child has seen and been through things most adults shouldn’t experience. But that child is strong because they have to be. That child is resilient because life goes on. That child puts on a brave face because people are watching. An “old soul”, maturity, and wisdom come from experience…experience a child shouldn’t have. That child is sad, broken, lost, and so strong. Next time you encounter one of these children please do not compliment them on their ability to carry their burdens so flawlessly instead encourage them to put them down. Offer them an opportunity to just be a kid even if for a only moment. We shouldn’t be applauding children on how well they hold the weight of their burdens, some of which would crush most adults. We should be offering them what they have been robbed of; a place where they can set those burdens down, a place of safety and security, a place where they can just be a kid.