The Compliment Game
I am reading a fantastic book by Bob Goff (called Love Does) and in one of the early chapters, he tells a story about his baseball coach sending him an encouraging card that positively impacted him his entire life. He concludes: “…the words people say to us not only have a shelf life, but they have the ability to shape life.”
Nowhere is this more apparent than when you spend time with children. Affirming words matter to them immensely, and the coolest part is that you can see the impact on their faces instantaneously. Kids wear their emotions so close to the surface that a harsh word causes quivering lips, but a word of praise makes them beam. In fact, I’ve noticed that the favorite dinner table activity around our house, particularly for our 9-year-old daughter, is something that we call “The Compliment Game.”
The rules are simple: take turns going around the table and say one nice thing about a person sitting at the table. (The dog gets no praise, which bothers our son immensely!) Here’s a quick sample:
Our daughter, E starts us off: “I would like to compliment…(wait for it) …Daddy!” (Note: the dramatic pause is important – and the kids often clap if you pick them.) “Daddy does an excellent job of fixing things like my scooter, the sprinklers, or things that Mack ruins. Thanks Dad!” Billy accepts the compliment with a simple “Thank you,” and then the person sitting next to E has a turn. We usually go around the table three time so that everyone has a chance to give everyone else at the table a compliment. Some days our son doesn’t feel like “playing,” though he never refuses to receive the praise.
Can’t get much easier than that!
Playing this game results in a handful of MAJOR benefits.
1. You learn how to accept a compliment – I covered the lost art of accepting praise a few weeks ago, but just remember that if someone says something nice to you, a simple “thank you” is always appropriate. It shouldn’t be hard to do, but, so often, it is.
2. You practice noticing AND verbalizing nice things about others – Keeping nice thoughts to yourself is wasteful. If someone’s done a good job, let them know! Encouragement is always appreciated.
3. You demonstrate an appreciation for individuals in the family – It’s easy to get caught up in the operations of making a family’s logistics work. When you stop and thank a family member for their role in the family, you show them that they are valuable and appreciated. When people are celebrated, something special happens to them. They are forever shaped by what you say.
For Billy and me, we use the time to “catch” and praise the kids for things we see them doing well. Favorite topics for us are:
- Demonstrating love to others (especially to siblings)
- Being a good friend
- Making wise choices
- Trying hard and not giving up
- Showing thoughtfulness (especially with nice manners)
- Serving others
- Helping around the house
- Stretching their creativity muscles
Everyone feels great about being “caught” doing something well, and the compliment game is an easy way to make feedback consistent and sincere. Definitely try this at home.
Remember your words have a shelf life AND they can shape life.