The Scientist’s Suggestion


I’m reading a parenting book from the director of the Yale Parenting Center that is completely based on science. As part of a bigger program, he suggests intense, cheer-leading style, positive reinforcement whenever your child does something you like. I looked up from the page to see my 3 year old son coming over to sit on my lap. I thought I’d try out what I had just read…

“YAY!!! Henry!! I LOVE when you sit on my lap!”

He looked up at me. Then he put his arms around me and gave me what I always call “a Henry hug.” Seriously. He must remember how they hug in heaven-his hugs are that good.

“Henry I LOVE your hugs!! Your hugs make me SMILE! Thank you for this WONDERFUL HUG!!!” (tight squeeze from me)

He looked at me again. Then he kissed me right on the lips and said “I love you mama.”

“Oh my Henry– You are SO sweet! I LOVE when you give me kisses!! Most of all, I LOVE when you tell me you love me. What a kind soul you are!!!” (another tight squeeze)

He smiled and hopped off my lap.

But the story didn’t end there. Apparently, the director of the Yale Parenting Center knows his science….

Almost this exact scenario happened over and over again as the afternoon progressed. He kept coming back again with his arms open wide, ready to jump in my lap, give me a hug, kiss me and tell me he loves me– and eagerly anticipated my exact reaction from the first time. (It’s exhausting to keep up your energy like that!)

Its not just a child who responds like that after hearing such an exuberantly positive response.

When a person receives sincerely given, positive feedback, that person feels inclined to repeat the behavior. I’m not a behaviorist, but I do believe that we can help the people we love by reinforcing their efforts with our kind words.

Think about someone in your life whose performance, in your grand opinion ;), is just not up to where you think they could be (or should be)…Next time you interact with them, try as hard as you can to find something wonderful that they are doing. Sincerely compliment them. A child will be more transparent than an adult, but I’m sure if you could read the other person’s mind, you would see the person making a mental note to repeat the behavior on which you complimented them.

The quote I picked from the most recent General Conference is this beautifully understated one from Elder Oaks:

Kindness is powerful, especially in a family setting.

Be kind today by sincerely complimenting and encouraging the good effort of another person!

Here is the accompanying s’more for study!

Screenshot 2015-01-01 at 11.13.42 PMLara


S: (Prayer/Ask) What do the scriptures and prophets teach about uplifting and inspiring others with our communication?

M: (Study)

  • Remember the situation surrounding Moroni and Pahoran, the Chief Judge? (if not, refresh your memory here). Consider the power of Pahoran’s sincere (and well-placed) compliment to Moroni. I think it must have taken a lot of humility to give Moroni a compliment considering Moroni’s scathing letter. But think about the power this compliment had to assure Moroni of Pahoran’s integrity.

 And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart.

How you communicate should reflect who you are as a son or daughter of God. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Good language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others invites the Spirit to be with you. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith, hope, and charity…Speak kindly and positively about others. Choose not to insult others or put them down, even in joking.

  • Read these lyrics from the hymn “Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words” (don’t worry, I didn’t put in the part about the warbling birds) hehe…
They’ll gladden the heart that’s repining,
Give courage and hope from above,
And where the dark clouds hide the shining,
Let in the bright sunlight of love.
Oh, the kind words we give shall in memory live
And sunshine forever impart.
Let us oft speak kind words to each other;
Kind words are sweet tones of the heart.

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

O: (Ponder)

  • Why do the things people say to each other have such power to build us up or tear us down?
  • Why is it sometimes hard for us to compliment another person?

R: (Write) your thoughts, what you learned, impressions you received, and anything else in your scripture journal (include your thoughts on the study session question: What do the scriptures teach about uplifting and inspiring others with our communication?) Also consider writing down the following:

  • We have an amazing memory for the compliments others have given us. Write down one compliment from another person that you’ve kept in your heart that has really meant a lot to you.
  • Write down a list of reasons we might have a hard time complimenting another person. Can you think of an antidote for our hesitance to give sincere positive feedback?

E: (Prayer/Thank)- thank God for what you’ve learned and ask if there is anymore.

The Challenge: Be kind today by sincerely complimenting and encouraging the good effort of another person! To make a real challenge– pick a person that usually drives you bananas….

click here for more information on s’more scripture study method

 S'mores (4071) - BSP Assignment #206005


  1. Annette@FitnessPerks

    I did the study, and it was interesting to note that I don’t give compliments as often when I am feeling down, self-conscious, or jealous. Isn’t that interesting? I am much more likely to be kind when I feel taken care of & loved, and when I love myself. It’s so important to take care of yourself (in small ways) first so you can be that much more loving & kind to others. I think motherhood has taught that to me so so well. Of course we don’t want to sit there and be selfish all the time, but if you feel resentful of the fact you don’t have what someone else has (and that feeling happens more often when I’ve not taken care of myself), you are way less likely to be kind and are jealous instead.

    great post!

    1. larabuckwalter (Post author)

      That is so interesting… in fact I remember you telling me something along those lines before. While I was writing the post, I thought about including that principle (we feel unable to give compliments when we are angry, resentful, full of self-pity and/or being prideful) but then I thought I’d include a question that might help someone to think about this themselves. Thanks for commenting, I love hearing what you are thinking as you study a smore! =)


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