The Compliment Game
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
Our daughter, Dana, came home from her freshman year of college and suggested that we play the Dana Game. ''I've taught all my friends at school how to play it.''
''How do we play?'' I asked.
''We'll go around in a circle. First you say what Dana does that you like, then Dad goes, then Hannah. Then we start over again.''
What a hoot. I had to laugh out loud. This was quite a twist on our family meeting compliment time that we learned from our Active Parenting class. I had also used compliment time in my classroom. Dana had taken compliment time to a new level.
Compliment time involves a few basic rules. First, the compliment must be truthful and kind regarding someone's actions. No silly faces. The compliment may not be about personal appearance or clothes. You must look the person directly in the eye while giving a compliment.
During a group time I told my three-, four- and five-year-old preschool students that I'd like to start a compliment time each day for the next month. This is how I introduced compliment time to my class.
''What is a compliment?'' I asked.
''It's when you say something nice about somebody,'' responded my older students.
''Yes, and the best compliment is when you let someone know you like something they do. We can give compliments on how someone looks or their clothes, but the best kind of compliment is about something a person does. Today, I'm going to give each of you a compliment as I go around our circle. When I'm finished I'll ask each of you to give me a compliment, so you can practice. Tomorrow we will each give Andy a compliment. We'll take turns until everyone has a compliment day.''
''Also, one more thing you need to know about compliments. When someone gives you a compliment, look them in the eye and say, 'Thank you.''' Around the circle I went, complimenting each child.
''Andy, I like how you help younger students tie their shoes.''
''Thank you,'' Andy, a five-year old, replied.
''Lauren, I like how you always smile when you sing.''
''Nick, I like how you sweep the floor after lunch.''
Around the circle I went, passing out compliments and getting thank you's in return.
It was the children's turn to practice by complimenting me. I heard the same three or four compliments, but as I had experienced before, it feels really good to hear 20 or more people say something truthful and kind about you. Talk about a natural high.
Every day we had compliment time. We started with the oldest students in order to model to the younger students how to give and receive a compliment.
In little over a month every child had his or her time in the limelight. Each day I announced the child who would be the honoree for the next session in order for the children to have time to think about what to say.
In a matter of a few days, with compliment time, our classroom atmosphere began to feel kinder. Complimented children seemed to walk a little taller for days afterwards. Children acted more patient with each other.
Play the Dana Game, excuse me, the Compliment Game, with your children. Sincere appreciation in the form of a compliment goes a long way. Be sure to give yourself a turn, or two, or more.
Thank you for reading this column. I appreciate your readership.
Next week: Take a Snapshot
Kids Talk™ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.
She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.
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