Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Art of a Compliment

My 5 year old appears to be a bit of a snob when it comes to making new friends. In his mind you are either his absolute best friend or you might not exist. He doesn't quite understand that you can be friendly with someone without pledging to be blood brothers. Breaking him out of his clique is something his preschool teachers have asked me to work on with him. Help him open up his circle a little.

I've started by teaching him how to make compliments. I think that if you can find one nice thing to say about someone, it makes them feel good. This is a nice gesture, but it is also a great way to break the ice when trying to interact with someone you may not know well. So, we have been working on finding those nice things to say. He is supposed to find one thing he notices on or about a person that he likes and tell them. He is not supposed to lie, he just is supposed to comment on the thing he likes the best. And he is supposed to be practicing with his classmates at school.

What is amazing to me is how well he listened to me and how effectively he delivers a compliment. Not only did he tell several girls in his class on picture day that they looked pretty or had pretty dresses, but I now receive the wackiest compliments at home. And these compliments flow from him without any obvious thought - he never misses a beat. I get a lot of "I like your shoes Mom" or "That is a really nice shirt". Usually because there is a bright color that caught his eye. I also get "You look pretty" or "I like your hair". Those seem to be his standbys, especially if he is sensing he is in trouble.

I had the pleasure of watching him interact with an adult friend of ours who was staying with us for the weekend. Our friend, Jay, walked into the kitchen one morning dressed to go out and the 5 year old hit him with "Jay, that is a really great shirt". Jay seemed a little confused by the compliment, but nonetheless had a huge smile.

My 2 year old is now following his brother's lead. Just the other day I got a "Mom, you look pretty today" - I was wearing my pajamas, glasses, and hadn't brushed my hair yet. I couldn't help laughing while thanking him for his kind words. This morning I was helping the 2 year old get dressed and he touched my chunky turquoise necklace and said "Mom, you look pretty today, I like these little rocks on your neck". Instant smile.

Its true - my thought on making compliments. I feel great when these little guys say something nice to me. And my smile is then contagious. They give me a great big smile right back, usually followed by an "I love you". I think we're onto something. Could we change the world with a compliment and a smile? Its worth a try.

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