The Power of Compliments

I saw this video last week, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the power of compliments:

The Power of ComplimentsIsn’t it amazing? This teacher spent just 10 minutes a day complimenting his students, and he completely changed the culture of his classroom. The kids started being more kind and complimenting each other. Amazing!

Well, of course, when I see something like this, I start thinking about how I can use it at camp and in my own family. I immediately decided to experiment with it at home. Instead of “Highs & Lows” at dinner on Sunday, I proposed we offer compliments instead. I suggested we each think of one compliment for every other family member. In the minutes that followed, we took turns giving one genuine, kind compliment to everyone at the table. It was a huge success – for just one night.

By the second night, my boys could not think of a compliment for each other. There was a period of uncomfortable silence, then one son said disingenuously to the other, “You’re kind.” Hmm. Wasn’t really the depth I was hoping for, and it didn’t sound like a real compliment. I wasn’t ready to give up, though. I decided I had done it all wrong. In the video, the teacher didn’t ask the kids to give each other compliments. He just started giving lots of them himself, and they naturally followed what he was modeling.

I switched gears and told my kids that their dad and I would give compliments each night at dinner, and they could choose to either give compliments or share their high and low for the day. My hope is that they will, eventually, start thinking of more compliments.

For the past two nights, my husband and I have shared compliments – with each other and with our boys. The boys have had a few compliments for us but haven’t yet come up with any more compliments for each other. They apparently are all tapped out after just one compliment that first Sunday. That’s okay. At least we’ve got a start and there are more positive vibes flowing around our dinner table. They’re thinking about compliments and giving a few.

One thing that has struck me is how unusual it feels to be sitting at the table and telling my husband, “I want to compliment you on keeping everything fixed in our house – it takes a lot of calls and patience to get things done, and we appreciate your hard work.” It’s just not something I would normally say. This week, I’ve realized how important it is to give more compliments, especially to the people I love. I’m going to focus on how I can compliment more, because I see how both giving and receiving compliments makes my life more joyful.

I have been able to tell my boys some of the things I genuinely appreciate about them, and our conversations haven’t revolved around chores or the upcoming schedule. Instead, I’ve said things like, “I want to compliment you on how hard you’ve worked in biology and how diligent you’ve been about getting difficult assignments done on time.”

It feels so great to give compliments!

The other side lesson I’m learning is that it’s important to know how to appropriately receive compliments. I’ve decided that a genuine “thank you” is suitable; there’s no need to be self-effacing (“Oh, it’s nothing…”) or self-promoting (“Well, I am pretty awesome…”).

Being able to give compliments is an important social skill and one that, until this week, I haven’t worked on with my kids. As I’ve researched compliments (see the many links below), I’ve seen that complimenting well is a skill that needs to be practiced, just like other social skills. Compliments can come across the wrong way, so there is an art to it that we all need to master. In general, compliments need to be genuine and delivered in an appropriate tone. It’s best to find something you like about the person’s character or personality, rather than complimenting a physical trait or possession. If you are complimenting clothing or a physical item, saying something like, “I really like your t-shirt. It made me laugh…” is better than just “I like your t-shirt.”

But, the really great compliments are about character traits or things that are important to the person. When my husband complimented me by saying, “You’re a really good writer and I think a lot of people are going to want to read what you write,” that meant a lot to me, because my writing is important to me.

Of course, as with all social skills, body language is extremely important. While giving a compliment, be sure to make eye contact and smile!

This video is a nice, short clip I will show my kids, which gives a quick overview about how to give and receive compliments:

How to Give & Receive a Compliment – Good Manners:

There are many reasons to give compliments, but I think there are two that are most important. The first amazing thing about compliments is that by simply expressing something you like about a person, you strengthen your bond with them and enhance your relationship.

Second, by giving a compliment, you can literally make someone’s day – sometimes even their week, or month, or year! A genuine, meaningful compliment can stay with a person forever. A single sentence has the power to make someone else happier and, in some cases, change the trajectory of their life. I’d say that alone is a reason to go out and give some compliments today, don’t you think?

Thank you for reading my post! If you like Sunshine Parenting, please subscribe to get an email update each time I post (use box in right column of my blog). Follow me on FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for links to articles and ideas about camp and parenting. Have a happy day!

Resources/Related:

How to Give a Good Compliment? (An In Depth Guide)
Want to Feel More Positive? Learn to Give Genuine Compliments
How to Give a Compliment (Wikihow)
How to Give a Great Compliment
http://www1.cbn.com/how-give-great-compliment
The Art of the Compliment
100 Compliments to Deliver right this minute
9 Steps to Giving the Perfect Compliment
7 Reasons why you Should Pay a Compliment to someone every day
5 Kick-A Reasons to Give a Genuine Compliment, and How to do it
How to Give a Compliment
4 Compliment Worksheets

Sunshine

I'm blessed to have five great kids (ages 13-23) call me “Mom.” As a summer camp director for the past 30 years, I've also had the privilege of working with thousands of kids, college-age counselors, and parents. I follow the latest research and trends on parenting, education, and children’s development and love to share what I learn!

3 Comments
  1. Thank you for this great reminder. You really have a talent for writing and encouraging others to change behaviors for the better.

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