According to local news outlets, a second-grader at Sunny Heights Elementary in Dana Point, California, is impressing her teachers by rejecting compliments at a 6th-grade level.
Emma Nelson, who recently turned seven years old, has proven herself as bright, gifted and completely unwilling to accept a kind word as her much older peers.
“Most girls Emma’s age still say ‘Thank you,’ when they’re given a compliment,” says Mrs. Knapp, a teacher at Sunny Heights. “But not Emma. The other day I told her I liked her shoes, and she said, ‘These hideous clompers? They look like they’re from the garbage store!’ I thought to myself, ‘Okay, this is a talent we can’t ignore.’”
Emma’s homeroom teacher, Mrs. Pearson, agrees with Knapp’s assessment. She recalls complimenting Emma for offering a toy to her classmate Randy, praising the second-grader’s ability to share.
“When Emma heard the compliment, she immediately claimed it was really Randy who did the good job sharing,” says Mrs. Pearson. “My jaw dropped. Emma was demonstrating the incredibly advanced technique of transferring credit to a male for no real reason. I mean, it was truly something to behold.”
Emma’s parents say they couldn’t be prouder of their daughter.
“We always knew Emma would ultimately refuse to take a compliment,” says Mrs. Nelson, Emma’s mother. “But we had no idea that by age seven, she would already be already rejecting between 50 and 75 of them a day. That may be even beyond a 6th grade level.”
Mrs. Nelson also recalls an instance where a friend from preschool told Emma she had pretty hair.
“Without even thinking, Emma goes, ‘No! You have pretty hair,” says Mrs. Nelson. “Then the other little girl said ‘No, you,’ and then Emma responded by going, “No, you.” Then it turned into a huge argument. Both girls left in tears. As they ran off to cry, all I could think was, ‘That’s my baby.’”
The key to Emma’s ability? She has mastered several different compliment rejection techniques typically reserved for more mature women.
“She can self-insult, she can deflect, she can devalue – and that’s only naming a handful,” says Mrs. Pearson. “Most girls Emma’s age have only mastered deflection at best.”
Mrs. Pearson recommends placing Emma in a school program for advanced compliment rejecters. If done early enough, Mrs. Pearson believes this kind of program could help take Emma’s talent to the next level.
“At this rate, she could be self-sabotaging her own promotion by age 9,” she says. “Imagine that!”
When complimented on her devotion to nurturing Emma’s talent, Emma’s mother simply replied, “Oh, it’s nothing.”