The best way to pay a compliment

“Of course you’re good-looking.”  “You’re the best friend ever.”  “Who wouldn’t want you on their team?”  Is there a parent out there (including me) who hasn’t praised a child in order to make him or her feel better?  Sometimes it’s true, and sometimes we say it because we just can’t stand to see them hurt.  Our kids usually know the difference.  We’ve missed the mark and they tell us so. 

This kind of well-intentioned compliment doesn’t work. Read on to learn how to pay a compliment that will contribute to your child’s healthy self-esteem.

How well do you receive a compliment?  Are you able to say thank you, take it in and bask in the praise?  Or do you feel uncomfortable, rejecting it and the person who complimented you?  If you’ve ever done the latter, it shouldn’t be surprising that your kids do this, too.  After all, most of what they learn about life and relationships they learn from you, their parents.There really is a way to pay a compliment that leaves everyone feeling great about it.

Your kids are your babies, your pride and joy, and you want them to feel confident and recognize their positive qualities.  So why is it that they squirm, deny, and reject you and your positive words? How can you help them recognize and accept their wonderful character traits?

pay a compliment
Every parent has heard their child say, “You’re just saying that because you’re my mom/dad/grandpa/aunt.”  Sometimes they’re right. We don’t want them to be sad or disappointed. And of course we insist that’s not true, that they really are beautiful, gifted, talented, athletic and more.  It ends up in a stalemate and we wonder where we’ve gone wrong.

So here’s the thing:  they reject the compliment because they don’t believe they are what we say they are.  They don’t believe they can live up to what feel like high expectations.  Here’s a true story from 20-something Lisa.  Her sister was struggling with depression and low self-esteem, and Lisa was desperately trying to help her feel better about herself.  One day she simply (and sincerely) told her, “Karen, you look beautiful.”  She meant it, but Karen never saw herself as attractive, so the compliment came off sounding insincere to her.  (So much for good intentions.)  “No, I’m not,” she replied.  “You’re just saying that to make me feel good, but it’s not true.”  She was focused on her flaws and imperfections, instead of her goodness and potential.

You know you can’t change others and how they see themselves.  You can’t give them positive self-esteem; only they can do that by putting forward their best effort and attitudes.  What you can change is how you speak to them and acknowledge what you see.  How do you do that?  How do you pay a compliment that is heard and accepted and helps build self-esteem?  It’s easier than you think.  You talk about what you see. In Lisa’s case, it might sound like this:

          Lisa:          “Karen, that scarf and sweater go together really well.”  OR
                            “You put together a nice outfit.”

          Karen:        “I did?  Oh, I did!  Thanks.”

That’s not about Karen’s beliefs about herself; it’s about the effort she made and what she accomplished.  It’s much easier for her to accept that the items of clothing look nice together.  She made that happen.  It’s a world away from telling her she is beautiful, which is purely subjective.

Here’s a scenario between a parent and child:  After a game you say, “Mike, you’re a great basketball player.”  He says, “No, I’m not.  There are lots of guys who play better than I do.”  He’s focusing on the negative and making comparisons.   Here’s another way to approach it:

          Dad:           “Mike, I noticed how focused you were, looking for chances
                             to pass the ball to your teammates.  Well done.”

          Mike:         “Yeah, Dad.  I’ve been working on that.”

This is not an evaluation of Mike’s performance or ability.  It is an observation of his effort, an acknowledgement of what his dad saw him do.  Mike did it.  He made it happen. No judgment, no comparison, no expectations.  Just the facts Compliment received.

You do realize this works with everyone, not just our kids, right?   Friends, co-workers, the supermarket cashier, even our own parents will appreciate it.  (Include yourself in there.) It would be nice if people could always be aware of the good things they do and the positive qualities they have… but they aren’t.

Remember that people feel good about themselves when they do good things. The reality is that sometimes they need others to point out or remind them of what they’ve done.  Let’s say it so they can really hear it.

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Look into my eyes…

Who remembers real, live, face-to-face communication? All right, it’s a bit dramatic. But the fact is that we have become used to relating to others without the benefit of our senses – sight, hearing and touch – and our relationships could be richer and more fulfilling with them.

Today’s tip is “Look into my eyes”. You will never have as much direct, honest and sincere communication as when you gaze into someone’s eyes. Take a look.

Look into my eyes.

It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Whether your eyes show love or pain, approval or sadness, they will surely express the real emotion behind your words. For me it is a way to receive cues and clues about the other person. I feel more connected and better able to interpret people and situations.  So please, look into my eyes.

To look somebody in the eye (idiom): to look directly at someone without fear or shame. “It is also clearly used in many situations to signal attraction, love and even agreement.” So says Frances Chen, Asst. Professor at the University of British Columbia. “Adults make eye contact between 30% and 60% of the time in an average conversation,” says the communications-analytics company Quantified Impressions. People should be making eye contact 60% to 70% of the time to create a sense of emotional connection, according to its analysis of 3,000 people speaking to individuals and groups. (Wall Street Journal article)

Making sustained eye contact is something I consciously work at in all my face-to-face conversations. I can almost feel myself being physically and emotionally drawn closer to the other person.

There is valuable information that doesn’t reach us when communicating electronically. We lose feelings of intimacy and trust. What will help you regain connection and trust in your relationships? Put down your devices. Listen with your ears and listen with your eyes.

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Love means… you’re not always being nice.

Hearts and flowers, hugs and kisses. This is the image that comes to mind when we hear the word love. How well is that working when it comes to your kids? Does being nice, agreeable and generous result in responsible, respectful behavior? The answer to that is often ‘no’, especially when looking beyond the moment. Love and how it manifests have to change as your children grow, if you want them to grow up. Let’s take a look at a new definition of this complicated and evolving emotion.

heart_flowers-523x600Do you equate loving your children with being nice and agreeable? Does being nice keep the peace, but leave you feeling frustrated and ineffective? If so, you’re not alone. It may be time to rethink this belief, this definition of love.

Love begins as being nice and warm and full of hugs and kisses. After all, as babies they are completely dependent on you and thrive in the warmth of your love and protection. As they grow, this diet of hovering and protection must change.

Love means giving your children what they need. Aside from food, clothing, shelter and education, what do they need? What does love mean?

Love means saying ‘no’. From two to twenty-two, they are unprepared for the multitude of opportunities and temptations life offers them. Someone has to be there to say ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ once in a while. You know what happens when there are no limits, how the chaos grows. Sometimes giving them what they need means not giving them something. When you find it difficult to say ‘no’, remind yourself that ‘no’ is a love word.

Love means being honest and strong. In addition to encouragement and praising their efforts, make sure to tell them what you see when they are making poor choices. No judgment, no yelling, no nagging. These may be the ways you express your frustration and worry, but they don’t get the results you want. They end up giving you more of what you don’t want. Remember, what you focus on, grows.

Love means walking with them through the challenges, not fixing it for them. They need you to help them, not enable them. To enable is to do for others what they can, and should, do for themselves. It feels tough in the moment, and you worry about them not being able to fix their mistakes; however, when you step back, they ultimately become stronger and more capable of thriving when the going gets tough… and it will get tough somewhere along the way.

Love means staying calm, especially when they are not. You don’t want to feed their out-of-control emotions. When you are emotional, they believe their problem is as big or bigger than they thought. That breeds more anxiety. Your calm demeanor helps them become more calm, so they can think clearly and find solutions to their problems.

Love means keeping the bigger picture in mind. Pull up that image in your mind of what an independent, satisfying life could look like for your child. When you are tempted to give in, give up, do too much, or say too much, remember what you want for your child 10 or 20 years down the road. Is what you are doing or saying going to contribute to that vision? If not, you know what you need to do or not do, say or not say.

It doesn’t happen overnight, this shift in attitude and actions, but it is possible, most definitely doable. One of your challenges is the anticipation of a most unpleasant tantrum (obviously not limited to toddlers), or the dreaded “I hate you.” You will survive, and they will still love you. Stick to the mantra of “I am committed to my child’s independence and I give him what he needs.”

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Plugged In and Disconnected (February Interview)

Welcome to 2015′s Healthy Family Habit-of-the-Month series.

Healthy habits take time to develop. You don’t just decide one day to have a new, productive habit and voila, it’s done! Now imagine you’re trying to get your whole family on board. It takes everyone’s buy-in, repetition and practice to do it consistently and to do it well. IT CAN BE DONE and we’re here to help.

The free Healthy Family Habit-of-the-Month series will help you jumpstart your progress. Every month you’ll receive an article, access to a live interview with an expert on the subject (via phone – with a chance to have your questions answered), a free gift from the expert, and additional resources.

If you’re ready for you and your kids to be stronger, healthier, happier and feeling more capable of reaching your goals, I invite you to join me by registering in the box at the very bottom of the page.

This month’s topic is “Plugged In and Disconnected”.

Guest expert Rhonda Moskowitz is a PCI Certified Parent Coach, an educator, and the founder of Practical Solutions Parent Coaching.  Her expertise is in coming up with practical and easy-to-implement solutions.  As a coach and a parent, she understands how parenting can be downright scary, and how much parents want to ‘get it right’.   The 24/7 digital world is presenting new challenges and concerns for families.  While you can’t change what’s ‘out there’, you do have control over what goes on in your own home.  Rhonda is here to help you bring more calm and connection between you and your children when it comes to their phones, iPads, and other electronic gadgets.

On Wednesday, February 18 (see the flier for details), Rhonda will walk you through creating screen-time rules and building love and connection within your family.  There will time at the end of the call for Rhonda to answer your personal questions, so be on the call live.  She is also providing a special bonus for those who register for the call… so go to the registration box at the bottom of the page now!

Plugged In & Disconnected

Weds., February 18
Plugged In & Disconnected

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When you look in the mirror do you see only flaws?

Body image is an important, and often life-long issue, more so for women than for men. With unrealistic portrayals of girls and women in the media — TV, movies, magazines, and more — it’s no wonder so many feel lacking. Many moms are unknowingly teaching their daughters to be self-critical because the moms are doing that kind of negative self-talk, too.

Julie Brower, a Certified Teen Life Coach, is guest-blogging for us this week. She has a mother-daughter tool to share with you in “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, I Look in the Mirror and I See Only Flaws.”


Mirror, mirror

Almost every teen girl and woman thinks there is something about her physical appearance (hair, face or body) that she dislikes or wishes she could change, especially when she looks in the mirror.

What about you? When you look in the mirror, what do you first notice about yourself? Is it your beautiful eye color, flowing hair, high cheekbones, or magnificent smile? Or do you notice a pimple, wrinkle, crooked nose, and flab in places you don’t want it?

If you’re like most females, the first thing you see is what you don’t like about yourself. Think about it: how much more often do you put yourself down when you look in the mirror versus noticing what you DO like?

This week’s Mother-Daughter Self-Love Tool is Mirror, Mirror On the Wall.

Ask your daughter to join you in this seven-day challenge. Pledge that you will both look in the mirror and compliment yourself daily. You can do this together or separately. If done separately, agree to keep each other accountable.
The Process: Every day for seven (7) days, as you put your make-up on, or brush your teeth, (occasions when you are most likely in front of a mirror), say (out loud or to yourself) “I have great eyes.” or “I have a pretty hair.” “I look good in these jeans.”

It might feel a bit awkward at first, but it gets easier each day you do it. You can say it quietly or in your head, but pick one thing a day for seven days that you like about your physical appearance, and compliment yourself. I promise, looking in the mirror will actually start being fun!

Fun Tip: You and your daughter can write on your full length or bathroom mirror with lipstick. Write statements like: I like my eyes, I have a great smile, I have thick hair and every other positive attribute about you.

Note: Do a practice run with your daughter, hold up a small mirror or compact and have her do this exercise. If she’s having a difficult time identifying anything she likes, look in the mirror with her and compliment something (or a few things!) about her.

Julie Brower is a Certified Teen Life Coach, Health Coach & Teen Yoga Teacher. She has helped hundreds of teen girls gain knowledge, tools, confidence and courage to make decisions from a place of self-knowledge, self-respect and strength. Through one-on-one coaching, group workshops, events, parties and movement, Julie connects with girls on their level and gets results. For more information, contact her at

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