When I give my 6-year-old a compliment, I love how his face lights up. He walks a bit lighter on the earth. His words are gentler and his outlook seems cheerier. Likewise, the pure glow on the face of my 4-year-old is heavenly when I tell him something that I love or admire about him. He usually responds, “I love you.” Which is his way of saying ‘thank you’. It is even cooler when big brother gives little brother a compliment. I have been witness, on rare occasion, to hearing gushy phrases like “I love you because you are my brother” and “I like playing cars with you”. It makes my heart swell with happiness.
It’s true, kids love to hear good things about themselves. In fact, we all love to receive a good, honest compliment. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” I totally agree.
Receiving a sincere compliment is one of those moments in life that really boosts your self-esteem. It can change how your day plays out. Genuine compliments have a way of melting away stress (if at least for a moment). They put a little pep in your step and often cause you to start dishing out warm, loving compliments to those you meet along your path.
I find it interesting that for some people, giving compliments is super easy and for some they can be difficult. In reality, compliments can be complex! There are multiple pieces to consider when you begin to teach a child how to give a compliment. Today, I have tried to boil it down to a few ingredients to make teaching this complex skill a little less daunting. However, really, there is no “one way” to give a compliment as long as it is nice and friendly. So consider this a basic recipe for giving compliments. You can add your own flair and customize it as you see fit.
- A dose of empathy
- 1 batch of Prepared Self Esteem
- 1 example of What (What you like about another person)
- 1 example of Why (Why you like something about a person) (optional)
- Empathy can help your child relate to another person. Thinking about how you can make someone feel better is at the root of giving a compliment. If you haven’t spent time teaching your child empathy, start there. Here is a list of ideas to get you started.
- Give your child a boost in their self-esteem. Tell your child what characteristics you admire in her. “Your smile is so cheerful” or “I like your easy going attitude; it really helps our family have a fun time no matter what we are doing.” This is a great time to introduce the word compliment and give it a definition “A compliment is something nice and friendly that you say to someone.”
- Ask your child what they like about you or a sibling or friend. “I like when you ride bikes with me” or “I like to play pirates with Sam”
- If you are going for the optional ingredients, you may need to help them put words to the ‘why’.
“I like riding bikes with you because you are fast.” Or “Pirates with Sam is fun.”
- Practice saying compliments to each other by putting the What and Why together while looking at the person. “I like riding bikes with you because you are fast!” or “Sam, you are a good pirate. We have fun together”.
These compliment examples may sound very simple, but for a young mind, this can be a great reach. Connecting all these dots takes practice and support. Sometimes your child will hit the mark and say compliments nicely and with sincerity “I like when you spend time with me” and sometimes he may blurt out something that you were not expecting “…these cookies are almost as good as Grammy’s!” Either way, take a breath, and smile. Your kiddo is trying out the compliment game on his own and that is awesome! Be sure to give her a compliment for using her nice words and thinking about you. After all… It is so friendly when you use nice words with another person.
Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2019
Image: © Mathayward| Dreamstime.com