We have been amazed at how much good parenting information is in children’s picture books – books that we hope you are reading everyday to the children in your lives – your own, your class, those you take care of. We will be pointing these parenting gems out to you so that every time you read one of our featured books to a child you will be reminded of the parent you want to be.
Featured Picture Book
THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN by Tiffany Strelitz Haber
(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)
In THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN, a little boy wants to be mean because that is what he is known for. The problem is his “M” is lost. He was convinced that ‘Without my M, I’m not myself – I’m someone else instead.’ As he challenges others along the way, he gives in to being nice and friendly. At first this really bothered him. ‘I really need to stop this stuff and do what MONSTERS do,’ he said. He even considered pretending he was mean just to get back to being himself. But, in the end, his friendly behavior resulted in some amazing friends and won out over being mean.
In Correct; Don’t Criticize – Part 1 we talked all about criticism. We really shouldn’t spend so much time on criticism without giving equal time to compliments. So here we go – all about compliments. Here are my top seven thoughts.
7. Details, details, details: Compliments have the most power when you are detailed enough that the listener really knows what he did to impress you and therefore how he might do it over and over again. When we make the compliment very general (“Good job.”), it is too easy for listeners to throw the compliment away. They don’t know exactly what is good about what they did, and they can’t repeat it. But, when you stick to details about what is good (“You finished exactly on time.”), it’s much harder not to believe it because the evidence is there, and it is much easier to repeat because you know what to do the next time to meet the expectation.
6. Avoid words like always, never and perfect. They just can’t happen, so why suggest it. When we compliment with those words, we are setting children up for failure while making them think they should be able to do and be impossible things. These words are cousins to name-calling – another form of labeling. The compliment sounds positive like a compliment should, but it is really a rock waiting to fall on you. For example, what happens to a child who is very sad but he has heard all his life how much he is loved because he is always happy? He can’t be himself; he can’t show his true feelings, and he thinks he won’t be loved if he isn’t happy. What was said to be a positive becomes a negative.
5. Serve up the compliment the child’s way. Every child has a favorite way to hear compliments. When children get a compliment their favorite way, they are more likely to believe it and hold onto it. Your child might like to hear it directly from you. (“You made your bed without any wrinkles today. That is so helpful.”) She might like to hear it in her own voice. (“I know how to make my bed now.”) Or, she may want to hear it second-hand. (You tell Dad about the wrinkle-fee bed-making, and Dad tells her, “I heard from Mom that you made your bed smooth as silk today. Way to go.”)
4. No throw-aways allowed. When you offer a compliment and your child acts like he doesn’t care or even worse rejects it (“Oh I wasn’t really that good.”), stop him. Tell him you notice he isn’t willing to believe your compliment, but you want him to know you really mean it. (“You are acting like you aren’t hearing me. I said I am impressed by this report card with your highest grades ever.”)
3. No plastic compliments. A plastic compliment is one that sounds good but blows up in your face at the end like bubble gum. (“You run really fast, for a girl.” – complimenting your running but criticizing your gender.)
2. Compliment the whole person. Children “do” great things sometimes, and they are great people all of the time. We should compliment both things about children in about equal doses. “You can sing with such a clear, pretty voice.” is a compliment about what your child can “do.” “ Come sit next to me so we can snuggle.” compliments who the child is – someone lovable.
1. Always believe what you say. Don’t give a compliment you don’t believe. If you do, your child will sense that it isn’t real and will learn to not accept any of your compliments. Thumper’s mom was right, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
So, when thinking about criticism, think about complimenting as well and commit to become really good at it by using these seven suggestions.
Daily Parenting Tip
What kind of parent do you want to be? Or grandparent, teacher or caregiver?
A GREAT one!
You can be exactly that – just “Decide and Practice.”
DECIDE what you are going to think about the kids in your life.
DECIDE what you are going to feel about the kids in your life.
DECIDE how you are going to act with the kids in your life.
Decide: You can learn to get to the point when you give compliments.
Practice: Today, write down 10 compliments appropriate for children. Read over them and mark the ones that are detailed and the ones that are too general.
What was your result? 50/50? 20/80? Go back over general ones and rewrite them by making them more detailed.
Save your list. Throughout the day, give at least three to children you care about.
Remember to believe what you say.
Today’s Decide and Practice daily parenting tip was inspired by our featured picture book, THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN. Read the book to a child in your life each day as a reminder of what you are deciding and practicing that day.
Come back each day for another good parenting decision and how to practice it. (Each day’s activity will also be posted on Daily Parenting Tips page for easy access.)
Read All About It
GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson
SELF ESTEEM A FAMILY AFFAIR, Jean Illsley Clarke
CONNECTIONS: THE TREADS THAT STRENGTHEN FAMILIES, Jean Illsley Clarke
OUCH, THAT HURTS!, Jean Illsley Clarke
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