My youngest daughter received a a lovely compliment the other day. Well, actually, I received it for her. Driving my 16-year old to driver's ed, we were reminiscing about our recent vacation on Martha's Vineyard, and she said:
"When I saw Franci swimming in the surf I noticed how really beautiful she is!"
Later, I told Franci what her sister said, and the next morning I wrote the compliment in her diary so that she can have it now and always.
Blessings Versus Curses
Chapter 11 of Before You Forget - The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children is about Brothers and Sisters - Growing through Sibling Harmony and Rivalry. Here's what I wrote about the value of diary compliments:
Through the diary door compliments can be taken seriously and can gain lasting value as they are read and reread over time. Written down, compliments gain significance and can be taken more seriously and ingested more deeply by the child who really needs to hear them. When siblings give each other the gift of a compliment, you can give it to one or both of the siblings in a diary story, as I savedthis compliment that my son gave to my daughter one peaceful afternoon during a winter vacation in Florida. As the second sibling, middle child, and biggest rival of my son, my daughter Perrin takes a regular dose of negative feedback from her older brother, who dotes on his baby sister. So, when his positive feedback does come her way spontaneously and generously, as it often does, it seems to take a while for her to let it really sink in and trust that he means it. All the more reason for me to take it through the diary door and leave it for her to "hear" again and again:
To Perrin (age 7), February 28, 2000
. . . Right now, and all afternoon, you and Landon have played like best friends, and it's a joy to be around you when you're like this. Swimming, jumping, pushing, falling, screaming, laughing.
We just got back from a long rollerblade through the neighborhood-longest trip I've seen you take on blades. I compliment you, and you seem surprised that I notice how much progress you've made. And Land says:
'You're a natural, Perrin.'
You make him repeat it three times before you hear him!