Some parents are stingy with complimenting. I do not blame them. They probably grew up with stingy parents, who probably grew up with parents that did not compliment them either. I have said many times that we suffer today for things our ancestors did, which have not evolved.
Wake up, parents! We do not need to do the same things our great-great-grandparents did, because in some areas of life, they were not great at all. Giving compliments was definitely one of these areas.
The belief “back then” was that compliments got in the way of “building character”. I have clients and friends who say it aloud, “If you compliment people, especially children, they become complacent”.
Since when is complacent a bad word, anyway?
Do you know that the opposite of complacent is “unhappy” and “unsure”? Do you think that being unhappy and unsure is better for anyone, especially for your kids, than being confident, satisfied and pleased?
Love or fear
There are many debates about compliments. In education and parenting, it is important to have an opinion about it, because it will determine the success of the next generation.
I think that many people confuse compliments with sucking up (this is what my children call it). There is a HUGE difference between them, because they come from two different places. Compliments are acts of love, while sucking up is an act of fear.
Giving or receiving
In my parenting classes and professional development courses for teachers, I hear how hard it is for some people to give compliments. Some people, who are insecure, fear that giving a compliment will leave them with less. I always ask them, “Less of what? What is it you lose when you compliment another person?”
To give compliments, the giver needs to be in a safe and secure place and to understand that saying something good about others does not make the giver less in anyway. In fact, they are more in many respects: more courageous, kinder, more observant, more positive, more compassionate, etc.
Compliments are a reflection of what we think of ourselves
I consider compliments as a reflection of what we think of ourselves. It is especially true when talking about the two most important socializing agents in our society: parents and teachers. When we compliment our kids and students, it means we are able to see and appreciate those things within ourselves.
It is simple: when you give more, you become more.
The manipulation commandment
Compliments are a way to reinforce the things we believe are worth promoting. Some parents and teachers say to me that they are scores for “good behavior” and that this is an act of manipulating. I have learned over many years of work that most people use the word “”manipulation” as if it is a bad word, but it is not!
We all manipulate the world around us to suit our needs. There is nothing bad about it. As parents and teachers, it is part of the job description. In the parenting bible, it is one of the commandments: “You shall manipulate your child/student to be healthy, successful, courageous, friendly, smart, curious, loving. respectful and kind towards himself/herself and others”.
If you have not read the job description, it is never too late to reconsider what you got yourself into!
And if you have read it, you probably understand that compliments are just a way to manipulate kids to become the best they can be, and that they are an effective way to do it.
Abuse does not motivate
If we go back to the past, we will notice that our parents and teachers used punishment as their main motivation tool and were stingy with compliments. I have been working with a beautiful girl who is training hard for something big and her coach still abuses her, and her whole team, in an attempt to motivate them. In the past, there was physical abuse, and today, there is more emotional abuse, but the result is the same: fear.
It is very simple to define abuse. You, as an adult, have power over a child, or someone who has less power, and you use it to gain more power, rather than to benefit the other person.
Some people say to me, “I want my children to learn from it”, and I say, “They sure learned a lot, but not what you wanted them to learn”. Abused children only learn to hate, stay away, fear and block the abuser, so that he or she is no longer a socializing agent but a source of fear.
Compliments are good ways to support the things we want to develop in our kids. They are a “marketing tool”, a way to pass on the things we want to encourage our kids to do. We never give a compliment when people do or say things we are not happy with. Compliments are another way of saying, “I’m happy about something related to you”. The more you compliment, the happier you are and the happier you will become because of this compliment.
Learning to compliment others is something we learn from home and take into our adult life. If we did not get enough compliments when we were kids, we become stingy with compliments and less happy with others around us. This is why we need to teach ourselves are parents to compliment, so that our kids will do it to their children and gradually, we will make the world a better place.
Join me next week for a list of compliments to give others: children, friends, family members, partners, colleagues, even strangers.