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How to Give and Receive a Compliment

Giving and receiving compliments belongs to a class of social skills involving graciousness. Teaching your child how to give and receive a compliment will help them to appreciate others and to feel appreciated as well.

Sincerity is the key to giving compliments. Voicing your favorable perception or reaction to someone or something is usually best simply stated. A true compliment comes from the giver’s heart and impacts the receiver’s heart. Compliments are often remembered long after they are spoken. They can lift, heal, and inspire great things.

Preschool

A baby shows her approval and delight with her whole body. Hearing Dad come through the door after work causes hard-to-miss excitement. Eyes are shining and face is beaming with wordless appreciation for Dad’s arrival.

As children grow, they begin to add words to their expression. If they hear loving, appreciative words they will begin to speak the language of appreciation. They will be accustomed to being complimented and eventually will begin giving compliments.

Toddlers are praised and encouraged for each new milestone. Parents and grandparents usually shower them with heartfelt compliments. As a child grows, they will begin to receive compliments from family, friends and strangers. They may react with shyness or even indifference. This is normal and part of the reason parents need to teach young children to receive compliments politely.

Preschoolers should never be forced to say “Thank you” after a compliment. Mom or Dad can say it for them if they have not begun to follow the modeling done by parents. Another option would be to smile or nod to the giver on your child’s behalf. Eventually children will thank the giver for the compliment. But that sometimes doesn’t happen until they are around 4 or 5 or even later.

Main points to address:

  • Children who hear compliments will eventually begin to say “Thank you”.
  • Never force a child to acknowledge a compliment.
  • Normal shyness may prevent children from responding positively to compliments. It is okay to say it for them until they are a little older.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age children are ready to be taught to thank the giver of a compliment. Begin with family members, gently reminding your child to thank them. Saying perhaps, “This is when we say thank you.” Or you could try asking gently, “Would you like to say thank you for that nice compliment?” Again, there is no need to force. Suggesting is enough at this age.

When children are about 7 or 8 they become more aware of social conventions and rules of conduct. More explicit direction is possible now. Practicing or role playing manners is fun at this age. Role-playing giving and in turn receiving a compliment will be a pleasurable way to get the message across. Have your child direct you in an appropriate response to a compliment.

A fun activity to teach this social grace is to write scenarios on squares of paper then fold them and put them in a jar. Take turns picking them from the jar and playing them out, alternating being the giver and receiver. The more the merrier if you have more than one child! You will be surprised at the carryover into “real life”.

If you know you will be taking your child to an event where they are likely to be complimented, you may want to remind them of manners generally and accepting compliments specifically. Many adults, especially childless ones, are offended if a child does not respond positively to a compliment. Let your child know it is okay to simply smile if they feel uncomfortable speaking. Your child’s feelings should be respected.

On the other hand, a child should be corrected if they are rude when a compliment is given. Gently remind them in private that everyone has feelings and it is better to say nothing than say something unkind in return for a compliment.

Main points to address:

  • School aged children can be taught how to receive and give compliments.
  • Practice this by role playing.
  • If your child is too shy to respond to a compliment, tell them it is okay to simply smile.
  • Correct rudeness in private by suggesting a more positive response.

Grade 4-6th

Children 9 to 12 are very socially conscious. They enjoy receiving and giving compliments. Because they have watched and heard people interacting for a decade or so, they will probably follow the example and teaching you have given.

This is the age when your suggestions for appropriate responses to others will be well-received. Notice their successful encounters with others by noting the specific social grace they employed. Reflect back to them their sincerity or kind choice of words. Praise, as long as it is not overdone is a good reinforcement for positive behavior.

If you wait too long to teach your child to give and receive compliments, you may find they resist your teaching and advice.
Older adolescents and teens have built-in radar for insincerity and may not respond at all to a compliment if they doubt the giver’s motives!

If you have taught your child to respond to folks in a thoughtful and courteous way, giving and receiving compliments will become a natural way of responding to others. Just remember you may not see the true fruits of your instruction until they are grown. In the meantime, trust that you have done your job!

Main Points to Address:

  • Children this age are receptive to instruction on social graces.
  • Notice successful encounters with others by complimenting your child.
  • Trust that your child has learned what you have taught even though there may not be much proof as yet!

Resources
Resources that can help you in your venture include:

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