Middle school kids giving thumbs up

The Power of Compliments

Genuine compliments build relationships, improve communication, motivate people, and boost one’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

The closure of schools and businesses due to COVID-19 has created upheaval for most families. If you have children between the ages of 10 and 14 you know that keeping them occupied and content can be challenging. By following this series, you will discover ideas and activities you can do with your rising teenager that are fun, increase resilience in youth, and build strong relationships in your family.

Genuine compliments build relationships, improve communication, motivate people, and boost one’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Families can practice giving and receiving compliments by making a specific time to do so. Perhaps it’s before or after dinner, or before a family meeting. This is a very powerful mechanism for improving relationship cohesion and individual self-concept. The development of positive feelings about oneself (good self-esteem) and about one’s realistic abilities to do things successfully (good self-confidence) are both important for healthy growth. The development of self-esteem and self-confidence requires repetitive experiences of a positive and realistic nature.

Compliments can be divided into four categories:

  • Ways people look (ex. I like your hairstyle. You have nice brown eyes.)
  • Things people have (ex. I like your sneakers. Your glasses look nice on you.)
  • Things people do (ex. You are great at soccer. You are a good cook.)
  • The ways people behave (ex. You are a nice friend. Thank you for straightening your room– good job.)

Form a circle with your family members like you might at mealtime or during a family meeting.

  • Ask your family or group: “What is a compliment?” Talk about compliments and how they are simple, nice yet sincere things people say to one another.
  • Have each person take a turn to give a short compliment to the person next to them. Compliments can be anything from the four categories listed above.
  • Remember to say “Thank you” when receiving a compliment. Give gentle reminders as needed.
  • Continue until everyone has given and received a compliment. Next time, switch up who you are sitting or standing next to.

The art of the compliment is a powerful skill. You don’t need to be an expert to do it well. Give compliments that you believe are true and look for ways to give compliments. Extra bonus- compliments are free!

This article was originally published as part of the BeTWEEN Families series on Penn State Extension.

This activity has been adopted from Iowa State University’s Strengthening Families Program: for Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14) curriculum. SFP 10-14 is a multi-session family series that builds family cohesion and has been proven to reduce substance use in youth. Find out if your child’s school is hosting SFP 10-14. For more information, contact your local Penn State Extension office.