For these last few weeks our neighbors have hired a contractor to paint their house. It has gone from a pale blue color to a sage green and will eventually look fresh and new. Since we live within a throw’s distance to our neighbor, our kids have watched this man, contractor “J,” who we know from our neighborhood, work super hard. He hasn’t stopped for days. Scraping, painting, hanging off of ladders, etc.. They have made comments about the house daily since he started and cannot wait to see it all finished.
(Don’t worry, this blog is not about painting, but a much more important thing that I want to teach my children.)
A few days ago we arrived home after going to the beach for the morning. Contractor “J” was still painting away and had made a lot of progress in the time we were gone. My kids got out of the car with their beach towels one at a time. They each took a minute to stop and pay “J” a compliment. With no prompting or pushing, they all took a minute to stop and praise him for his great job. First I heard my youngest say, “Wow, that looks good!” A few moments later my oldest walked by and said, “You did a lot of hard work today!” And then when my middle daughter strolled by, she also stopped for a minute and commented, “Great job! We can’t wait to see it all done!”
I was still by the car collecting our cooler, beach bag, toys, etc… but heard “J” chuckle as each one passed him by and intentionally paid him a compliment. I don’t think that many little people have ever stopped to admire his handiwork. I overheard the comments and it made me smile. So many times my kids are self-centered and only care about the things that directly affect them. (Much like myself and many other adults.) They could have walked on by and not even thought about his hard work, and could have instead ran into the house and went about their day. Would “J” have cared if they ignored him? Probably not. But did it make him smile and maybe add a little happy moment to his day that they didn’t? Sure!
A few hours passed and our entire family was getting packed up to leave for the afternoon. Sure enough we went out to the car and “J” was still busy working on the neighbor’s house. This time my husband stopped momentarily and said “Wow, that’s looking great! I can’t believe you’re already that far along!” I cracked up! I made the comment to my husband that all of the kids had also complimented him earlier in the day. “J” quickly said, “Now I see where they get it from.”
This simple comment made me really stop and think. So many times in my day I complain and grumble about x, y, and z. The car in front of me is driving too slow. The cashier at the grocery store got my order wrong. The gas pump attendant isn’t paying attention to me, etc… Our kids pick up on everything we do! If I spend my day mumbling under my breath, complaining and putting others down then that’s exactly what our kids will do. But if instead we take a simple moment to pay someone a compliment, say a kind word and help others out then THAT will be the example they will follow and copy.
This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this concept or had this “ah-ha” moment, but it’s been a while and was an excellent reminder that I need to lead by example. My husband does such a great job at it, and I try, but it was a great example of how important this really is! I want my children to be good citizens, and what better place to learn that from than at home!?