Give Me Compliments!

Give Me Compliments!

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I love receiving compliments! I love the feeling of being praised, but I especially love a certain type of praise. Picture this: Someone you know and love well tells you “You’re great. Like you’re just the best!” Feels good, right? Especially if the nonverbal cues are there--if there is warmth to the tone of voice, the smiling eyes, all around good feelings.

But I’ll bet it feels even better to receive a specific compliment from that person you love. Such as “When I’m sitting with you, I just feel happy and relaxed!” or “I noticed how you went out of your way to help me. And that felt so good to me!”

The same is true for kids, and it’s even more important for kids, because they are in the middle of forming their identities and sense of self in relationship to others!

Us grownups are trained by society to use words like this “Nice work!” “good job!” and “You’re such a good kid!” They roll off our tongues so easily! But these phrases are general and they imply a judgement (good vs bad), and they make the child dependent on our praise in order to feel like competent, loved humans!

It is not possible to be evaluative and communicate acceptance. The play therapist strictly avoids even the simplest forms of evaluation. Evaluative statements deprive the child of inner motivation
— Garry Landreth, Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship

We don’t intend that! But it happens! Which is why, especially if your child is struggling with self-esteem they often want constant compliments: “Do you like it Mommy?” “Look what I made do you like it??” And they may not be satisfied with your answer--this is because they lack the inner esteem and motivation.

In this case, I begin to train parents to change their language! It feels awkward and counter-intuitive, but once you get the hang of it, your child’s self esteem can improve, plus they really BELIEVE you when you give them those compliments.

Here are the tips:

1. Use specific language. Use the words “I notice….” and avoid words like Good/Bad/Best/Better/Awesome, etc. The key here is we are describing rather than applying evaluation or judgement.

2.  Use your body and face to communicate how much you love something! Kids are so visual and they pick up on body language even more than words!  

Examples:

The words: Instead of “Nice work I love it!” try “I’m noticing all the details you added so carefully right there!”

The Feeling (body language): Say this with genuine prizing of what the child did! Look in their eyes, really show on your face that you just love your little one and that you really see them.

The words: Instead of “Good job washing your hands” try “You remembered to wash your hands!”

The Feeling (body language): Say this with genuine prizing of what the child did! Look in their eyes, really show on your face that you just love your little one and that you really see them.

It’s so much easier to say “good job!” I do it all the time with my own kids. And eventually they tune it out. But when my little one shows me the block tower they made and I get down next to them and say “You’re really proud of that!” Instead of “good job!” My little one begins to really feel proud from the inside, and also knows that I see them and love them for exactly who they are! And then we’ve begun the work of nurturing true, internal self-confidence!


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