Home Parenting How to Balance the Compliment Criticism Ratio As a Parent

How to Balance the Compliment Criticism Ratio As a Parent

by Vidya Sury March 28, 2013 32 comments
compliments criticism ratio

Balancing the compliment criticism ratio is critical in life in all our relationships and with specific reference to parenting.

As someone who grew up in a joint family, I always wondered what it would be like to have been a “normal” family with one Mother, one Father, and one me.  As my father chose to leave a couple of months before I was born and went to settle in the US, never to return (to us) I did not find out.

When I was old enough to be aware, and some inner turmoil later, I decided joint families are best. I chose to be happy with what I had. And what a family! In spite of all the ups and downs, the overall feeling when I think of my family is happiness. I can’t help smiling and as I continue to recall incidents, it is downright laughter. So many joyous moments. So much love! I was lucky to have four doting uncles, an aunt, a grandma, and a Mom around me as I grew up.

If I were to pinpoint one thing about our family – it would be the tendency for good feelings. Oh yes, we are human and freak out like everyone else…but you know what they say – blood is thicker than water – and it is the truth as far as our family is concerned.

Strong families are fueled by these good feelings and positive emotions. Not saying we don’t resort to emotional blackmail or criticism at times, we do; but it is all very good-natured. No matter what, we can’t see each other unhappy.

One thing that has always stood out for me with my folks is the generosity with food and compliments. Nobody leaves our house without sharing a meal. And if someone accomplishes something, however minor,  the shower of compliments is guaranteed. More so if they are children.

A compliment is verbal sunshine” – Robert Orben

A foundation like that is pretty hard to shake and my Mom always reminded us to make sure that a mean comment or criticism is enveloped in at least three compliments. That sounds like good Math to me!

compliment criticism ratio

How to balance the compliment criticism ratio as a parent

I grew up in a joint family where love was abundant (even if the money wasn’t) . I always feel wonderful recalling that no matter what, children were never yelled at. That takes some superhuman-ness – but that’s how it was.

Ours was a matriarchal family, with my Grandmother as the head and what she said was usually never up for argument. Not that anyone wanted to, but she always gave logical and great advice and everyone was happy. She always emphasized going easy on the criticism. Instead, we were encouraged to encourage others for the same.

In today’s hectic lifestyle where everyone is rushing everywhere, how easy is it to stay cool?

How to maintain that compliment criticism ratio?

Here are things that have worked for me – and it helped because I grew up in an environment where everyone practiced it.

Look within

It must always begin with us as parents. Making an effort to feel good about ourselves is the basic starting point. When we practice being affectionate and speaking with kindness, we become role models for our children. Children notice what we do more than what we say and a general aura of harmony promotes happiness.

The effect of praise on children’s intrinsic motivation.

Think before you speak

During that morning rush, or when you are busy with something, it is so easy to yell with frustration. But, take a deep breath. Say what you want to say – in your mind. Reflect on how it sounds. Nobody likes that negativity – so squash the urge to make that negative comment. If you have something nice to say, though, go ahead and say it. Negative words kill self-esteem. Positive words boost it. Oh, I know how tough it is to control oneself. But I am getting there.

Recognize the power of language

This follows from the point above – and is about teaching children the power of language. Just as we must reflect before we utter, the same goes for children…expect they need us to tell them, especially when they talk back. I remember, if I spoke aggressively, my Mom would immediately say, “Oh! When you sound like that I get so scared”. I swear I would immediately feel a little sheepish. And rephrase. Situation diffused. Lesson learned. Unless we are aware, we can’t see.

For every negative, two positives

Discipline is an essential part of life, like it or not. Each time you have to practice discipline, follow up with some good words. And make sure your child practices this. It is a wonderful habit that pays big dividends. Be generous and praise others whenever the situation demands it.

Release the negativity

Don’t bottle up. Don’t let it build up. It fosters ill will. Instead, make it a habit to vent out. Even if it doesn’t sound nice, letting it all out once and for all helps clear the air and strengthens the relationships. Be ready to forgive and apologize. There is no shame in saying “sorry’. It is not hard. And teach your children to do the same.

The important thing to remember is it all begins with us as parents. Being positive and nurturing good feelings keeps you healthy and stress-free. 

Question for you:

Do you believe in balancing the compliment criticism ratio?

What do you recommend?

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Hiten March 28, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Hi Vidya,

I really enjoyed your full article on this topic.

In answer to your question, I believe criticism given in the right way is important to help a person learn and get better. However, I believe it needs to combined with a very healthy level of compliments to ensure it doesn’t have a negative impact on one’s self-esteem.

Thank you.
Hiten recently posted…Successful and Happy: Achieving the Right Work and Life Balance

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Thank you, Hiten, for your input! Criticism, as long it is constructive is always good. It is all in the way one expresses it, no?

Happy week to you!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter

Mayura March 28, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Hi Vidya,

I love the quote you mentioned here ~ A compliment is verbal sunshine

Just read about your mother on the other blog of yours too and recall once reading the story here that she came to your school as a special guest. How loving person she is 🙂 Your writing tell us how much you miss her.

I’m sure you are following her pathway too 😉 Obviously except for being a photographer. She didn’t took photos, eh?

I think criticisms can be good sometimes but it’s we who can make it just a criticism or helpful advice Vidya 🙂 Words can be powerful if we use ’em meaningfully. Even a single word counts 🙂

Reminds me of a teacher who always used to spread kindness for everyone with her words.

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Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Yes, Mayura! Lovely quote no? Short and sweet. I thank you for mentioning my Mother. She is my hero. As for photography – well, if we could have afforded a camera back then, I am sure she would have enjoyed photography!

I love how we always remember a teacher fondly. Thank you for your kind comment, Mayura! Happy Easter!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter

Cathy Taughinbaugh March 28, 2013 at 6:25 pm

No family is perfect, but we can find happiness and joy in what we do have, not what we don’t have. Looking at the positive side of things helps us so much more throughout our lives. Thanks for your continued inspiration.

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Dearest Cathy, you are absolutely right. The best part is we do not need perfection! I grew up with very little and it was absolutely adequate because of the love that packed it all up.

Thank you, Cathy! Happy Easter to you!
Vidya Sury recently posted…One for my digital vacation journal

Julie Barrett March 28, 2013 at 7:01 pm

That is some great advice, Vidya. I wonder how it is that some people are simply wonderful about imparting a criticism or a “suggestion for improvement” so lovingly that we feel we want to take their advice, while others just leave us feeling badly. It’s a skill I would love to learn. I’ve often heard about the “compliment sandwich” where you start with a positive and end with a positive, throwing the “other thing” in the middle. I think your mother’s method is better 🙂
Julie Barrett recently posted…Clues to Your Soul Gifts and Life Purpose

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Dearest Julie! Yes, I’ve heard of the compliment sandwich too 😀 and it would be my favorite sandwich flavor. Words, as I’ve learned, make all the difference. Some people just have a knack for it. I’ve practiced well. I remember thinking, why is it a problem calling a spade a spade. On occasion, I still do. But most of the time, I tend to be positive, thanks to my Mom. 🙂 Hugs! Happy Easter!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter

Debbie March 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Sounds like you are a very lucky lady, Vidya. And thanks for sharing. My family wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t by far the worst.

We did have our moments of happiness and than not so happy. Though I do have to wonder how my mother did things with 7 kids, no running water etc.

My younger years we did not have much, but you know I never really thought I was without. I felt the love even though it was never said out loud.

I love your quotes and you are right words can be kind or mean. It is up to the person speaking them.

Thanks again for sharing.
Debbie recently posted…Whatever You Give a Woman She Will Make Greater

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Debbie, Indeed I am lucky! The surprising thing is – we were a joint family, yet my aunts, part of the same family, who got married and went away were not of that disposition. Still, in the big picture, it was a united family.

It is also funny how we are okay with whatever way the ones we love talk to us!

Hugs and thanks for commenting! Happy Easter!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Hours Make Happy Days

Galen Pearl March 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm

I took this to heart with my kids and tried to make sure that I was giving more compliments than criticisms. I also try to keep that ratio in my every day life. For example, if I criticize service I’m getting, I try to balance that with several compliments. And of course, I try to be free with the compliments generally in case a little criticism slips in now and then!

I watched a sermon once by Joel Osteen in which he spoke about “Speaking the Blessing.” Our words have such power, especially, as you point out, with our children.

Such an important post–thank you.
Galen Pearl recently posted…Gratitude Within Reach

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Galen, I can’t imagine you ever saying anything but sweet words. 🙂 At home, we were always encouraged to be generous with praise and think for a few before we were about to speak in anger or say something uncomplimentary. Can’t say I always agreed with that, yet I obeyed. Thankfully it became a habit. 😀

Words are very powerful. Hugs! Happy Easter to you!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Parenting with love and logic

Jodi @ Heal Now March 28, 2013 at 10:49 pm

My family is a joint family and we are OK! Loved reading about you!
Jodi @ Heal Now recently posted…How Do You Know You Are Happy?

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Thank you, Jodi! 🙂 I’ve experienced the joy! Happy Easter!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter

Ken Wert@MeanttobeHappy March 29, 2013 at 8:46 am

Toally loved reading this, Vidya!

It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have, what others are not doing right, disappointments and frustrations and forget about all that is so wonderful about our lives, those we love and about life itself. So I love that you one day simply decided to be happy about the family you had. What a difference such a simple decision can have!

We’re a compliment-giving family ourselves. The world (and often, our own inner critic) will provide enough criticism. We don;t have to heap on a second serving.

Thanks for the beauty of your example and willingness to share your story with us, Vidya! You are an inspiration, for sure!
Ken Wert@MeanttobeHappy recently posted…The Anatomy of Failure (21 easy ways to fail at anything)

Ken Wert@MeanttobeHappy March 29, 2013 at 8:47 am

Not only did I “toally” love this, I totally loved it too! 😉
Ken Wert@MeanttobeHappy recently posted…Emotional Spring Cleaning (5 ways to declutter your heart)

Vidya Sury March 29, 2013 at 11:15 am

I toally love you, Ken! I was smiling so much as I read your comment I read that as totally!

Vidya Sury recently posted…Happiness Is Everywhere

Vidya Sury March 29, 2013 at 11:23 am

Ken, we had an unspoken rule at home that everyone was conscious about – if you cant say something nice, don’t say anything at all. 😀 Well, except one aunt – I think she didn’t hear that rule. Still, we loved her. Most of the time, anyway.

The way our mouths are turned determines how our day goes (or something like that). I believe in it. I am glad you came by. Happiness is always within reach, no?
Vidya Sury recently posted…Parenting with love and logic

I. C. Daniel March 29, 2013 at 2:03 pm

There is no way to value something without lack of criticism in my opinion. To measure this criticism is another thing that most likely we critic how our heart feel about it. That’s the way I’m thinking!

Best regrards from I. C. Daniel – Romania

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Daniel, you have a point. I feel that it matters how criticism is expressed. When positive words are used, they encourage.

Thank you for visiting. I had a great time browsing Romania’s special Easter eggs today! Your country is beautiful!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter

Elle March 29, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Vidya, the if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all is just what my mum always said to us. You can think what you like, you don’t have to say it, she’d say to the three of us kids.

In our household we like to focus on the attributes we enjoy in one another. Value and respect the differences and just be kind.

Love this post.

Love Elle
Elle recently posted…Dream Stealers – Time To Kick Them To The Curb.

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 10:35 pm

No wonder we are soul-sisters, Elle! Such an easy principle to follow. I can’t remember raised voices in our house, ever…except when someone had to be called from far off 😀 Hugs. “Value and respect the differences and just be kind” – that’s a great policy!

Hugs. You know I love you!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter

Anne-Sophie March 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Blood is thicker than water; this is so very true. As much as I sometimes hated my family and as often as I wished to have grown up differently, I know I will always be able to rely on my parents and my sister. Now that my childhood is long gone, I choose to mostly remember the positive things, the laughter, the fun, the play and the love and there was a galore of love in our home. As I grew more and more independent, I started to see how important family really is and what a blessing it is to have one – in whatever shape or form that family comes into your life.
Anne-Sophie recently posted…Love Yourself Friday Edition #28 – If you have the WHY, you can tolerate any HOW

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Anne-Sophie, always a pleasure to see you! (I just enjoyed your latest newsletter!) I understand what you say about choosing to remember the good parts. It is the only way to be – considering we have only one life..why not live it in the best way we can?

Thank you for your lovely comment. Every good thing counts! Hugs!
Vidya Sury recently posted…One for my digital vacation journal

Shawn March 30, 2013 at 4:18 am

This is a good topic! Being a music teacher, I started my careen giving a lot of criticism. While it was constructive criticism, as I am paid it identify what is wrong with the musical performance and goive instruction on how to improve, my compliment to criticism ratio was really unbalanced. This past year, I have been really conscious of this and I made it a goal to tell every student something they are doing right before I gave them criticism. This technique not only improved the performance of the students, but also the overall moral of the classroom atmosphere! So, I would have to say that both are important, but emphasis on the complimenting is always a good thing.
Thanks for the post!
Shawn recently posted…Neuro Programmr 3 Review

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Shawn, it is interesting that you should share this experience. I joined a class to learn to play the guitar, and because the teacher kept criticizing, I chose to leave and never went back. In fact, he did not mean to be mean, he was just being honest. He expected everyone to learn things quickly. On the other hand, my vocal music teacher was always praising and motivated us to try harder. Big difference. I am sure your students love you!

Happy Easter!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter

Terri Sonoda March 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Hi Vidya! This post resonated with me on a very personal level. I grew up in a family that was quite the opposite of yours. Although I had a Mom and Dad, my mom was lost in alcohol and my Dad worked all the time. My Mom did nothing but criticize me. There were very few kind words. Although it most definitely affected me by attacking my self esteem, I vowed not to raise my children in such a manner. And I kept that vow. My sons were raised with praise and positive reinforcement. I see my son doing the same with his son, and it warms my heart. I broke that chain of negativity. It can be done. Thanks for the free book. Can’t wait to read it!
Terri Sonoda recently posted…Why fiction?

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I remember you’ve mentioned this before, Terri. I would feel sad when I read that, because you’re one of the kindest and most encouraging persons I know. I love that vowed to be loving. I am blessed to know you, dear friend. Love you! 😀
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter

My Inner Chick March 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm

“A compliment is verbal sunshine”

So True. They are like little warm hugs all over your body, too.

You. Are. Sunshine. Vidya. Xxxx LOoooooove.
My Inner Chick recently posted…An Imitation Life on Carnival Cruise Lines

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 10:44 pm

When you comment, Kim, that’s exactly how I feel = lots of warm hugs all over. Love you! Hugs!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter

Betsy/Zen Mama March 31, 2013 at 12:59 am

Wonderful Vidya! I’ll head over and read it all at Parentous. Our family is this way, too. There are so many ways to say the same thing. We are quiet first before speaking in anger or frustration.
Betsy/Zen Mama recently posted…Why Do I Need To Learn This Lesson?

Vidya Sury March 31, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Thank you, Betsy! Hugs! You are right!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Happy Easter


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