“One-a-Day Compliments,” Ensign, Dec. 1982, 66
One day I was visiting with a mother of seven grown children, all active, confident members of the Church. As a young mother anxious for help and advice, I questioned her about her secrets of success. One of her most impressive answers was: “I tried to genuinely compliment each child on something he or she did well every day.”
How often we ignore the good behavior of our children and comment only on their mistakes and misbehavior! To grow to be of value to himself and society, a child needs to think well of himself. He needs to see himself as an important person and know that he has abilities and skills.
Compliments go a long way toward improving a child’s self-esteem. Following are some ways to encourage a positive self-image in children.
1. Provide opportunities for growth. One of the first phrases a toddler learns to say is “I can do.” He likes to feel capable of performing different tasks—feeding himself, dressing himself, or pouring his own juice. Other challenges follow as he develops his abilities. He needs opportunities to perform. Parents have the responsibility to create these opportunities for growth and allow children to do as much as possible for themselves.
2. Encourage them. Children will often become whatever we tell them they are. If they feel loved and accepted if we center our attention on what they do well rather than on their failures and mistakes they will feel a sense of accomplishment and self-respect. However, if we fail to reinforce a child’s good behavior with encouragement, he may become discouraged and misbehave to gain attention. Often parents discourage children very innocently. For example, four-year-old Mary wants a drink of milk. She takes the carton from the refrigerator and begins to pour some milk into a glass when mother walks in. Mother quickly snatches the carton from Mary and says, “Here, let me do it. You’re too little. You might spill it.” If this kind of reaction is common, Mary will probably see herself as “too little” for a long time.
3. Compliment them. Compliments help children believe in themselves. But compliments must be genuine and specific to effectively influence behavior. Telling Johnny he is a good boy will not have the same effect as telling him how happy you are that he mowed the lawn without having to be reminded. Simply remember to notice your children’s good behavior and let them know how it honestly makes you feel.
As children grow up, they feel small and inadequate in the adult world. They make mistakes and are very much aware of their failures. But if we will remember to supplement their development daily with learning opportunities, encouragement, and sincere compliments, we can be assured that we are nourishing their self-esteem and potential for growth. Linda Turley Turner, Heber City, Utah