What happens when someone gives the children in your life presents they don’t like? Do they say, “Thank you” even if it’s not the present they were expecting? Do they recognize that the gift giver did something kind or do they say, “I don’t like it”? Do they think they are not telling the truth if they don’t say exactly what they are thinking.
By the age of 3, children begin to comprehend and even use words to describe what other people are thinking. For example, “Aunt Rita thought I still liked stuffed bunnies.” By the age of 4, children understand “trickery” which means they know they can say and do things that are deceptive or not quite true. By the age of 5, children can compliment others for their accomplishments or good fortune. Finally, by the age of 6, children understand culturally defined social rules. They also possess a wide range of behavioral strategies to help them manage emotions.
We have been working hard on giving compliments with our Social Adventures Group of 6 year olds. They hold fast and hard to rules and feel they should be honest all the time (which we support and is a generally good rule). So trying to help them understand that it’s OK to say a nice word even if you don’t like something is a challenging concept. Here are a few things we’ve done in our group that you may find helpful.
- Read Being Frank by Donna W. Earnhardt and illustrated by Andrea Castellani. We then became detectives and worked on choosing something to like in every situation even when you don’t like the whole package.
- We role-played receiving gifts that are NOT what we expected and saying things like, “Thanks” or “It’s a nice color”.
- Each child drew a picture then showed the picture to the group in an “art show”. Each child said one thing they liked about the each picture. One boy said, “Do I have to? I don’t like anything about it.” When told he wouldn’t be able to show his picture and get compliments if he couldn’t think of nice things to say about the other pictures, he came up with wonderful comments!
- The group was separated into 2 groups of 3 children who worked collaboratively on a group picture. They needed to ask their cohorts before drawing something. Because they needed to talk about what they were placing on the paper, they began to compliment each other’s drawings.
- While transitioning from one room to another, the “ticket” into the room was turning around and saying something nice to the child in line behind them. Some said simply, “I like your shirt” while others surprised us with comments such as, “I liked playing that game you made up in the gym!”
Needless to say, this takes a lot of teaching and practice but the kids are learning how to be detectives and find something they can compliment in all situations. Happy Holidays and may you enjoy many compliments with kids this year!
Submitted by Jill Perry MHA M.S. OTR/L
(Image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski