I think our unwell family members might have low self-esteem and I heard somewhere that it would be a good idea to compliment them once in a while like: “you are very beautiful”, “you are very strong” other than stating the obvious “I love you”… do you think it helps for their self esteem or do you think they feel they are being mocked if they don’t feel beautiful and strong? Although I do believe they are beautiful and strong despite of their illness. Have you tried that? What happened when you did?
Compliments and “attaboys” are very well received by my son. He is hospitalized long term but doing very well and progressing through therapy in his quest for conditional release. He’s always been on the low end of self esteem and doesn’t always recognize the many abilities and talents he has. I find that encouraging him in a positive way about what he’s doing in his classes or with his therapist goes a long way to affirm that’s he’s working hard in the right direction. When he talks about his plans for his future life, I’m always happy to listen to his planning, even if the plans aren’t likely to work out except in the very long run. It’s OK to be vague when it comes to hope
He likes to be reminded that he is kind, thoughtful, respectful, using an example from our conversation if possible.
I offer compliments only if they are sincere because he can smell BS. “I like that shirt” or “nice haircut” or “thanks for thinking of me and calling- I like hearing from you” are always good.
I have learned not to comment on the usual mom-kid stuff about his appearance and you-should-dos. Learning to leave that parenting bit behind can be hard. They are trying to build independence in his treatment plan and I’m all for that- I had trouble doing it when he was in his teens (he’s 22).
I hope this helps- my son is not currently in psychosis and there is a light at the end of our tunnel. This is what works for us, now.
I notice that my son gives a shy smile when I genuinely compliment him. It’s as of he really has such low self esteem at times and this does make him happier.
I make it a point to tell my brother when I am impressed by his ability. I also often remind him that he is a good guy, his time is valuable and that his opinions matter to me.
These are all good things to say to anyone close to you occasionally. But don’t expect a glowing reply of gratitude from anyone, especially not someone dealing with a disorder.
My son chalks all of my compliments up to “Of course you would say that you’re my mom” …I can’t convince him that it is anymore than just a “mom” thing… when my sister was with me she loved compliments but so much so she would start fishing for them in rapid succession if I paid her one sincere one. Like for example I might say; “I just love your hair!” Then she’d beam with pride and go on and on about it and all the things she didn’t like about it and then she would start up with “do you like my coat?” do you like my shoes?" do you like my finger nails?" and on and on… Kind of made me want to be very careful about when and how I paid a compliment.
Yes, our loved one appreciates being reminded that he is a good person and of his good characteristics (as they are actually observed). He appreciates compliments on his looks and on the neatness of his room. He wants to know that he is loved and we tell him! But I think each person is different. Perhaps it is a measure of what the person’s personality was like before illness.
It didnt work for me. My son would not take his meds and he became very defensive to anything including complements. We were walking down the street and he picked up a cup laying on the street and put it in a better spot… I said that was kind you to pick up trash on the streets. OMG he started a rant and rage about why wouldn’t he do that then turned around and got cup and threw it at the building.
I felt stupid at that point and wondered why I keep trying. I guess its the mom in me.
I realized at that point, I have nothing to offer him anymore. I had to let go, for myself. I’ve been going through this for over 15 years. Him and I do not mesh. It’s sad to think I gave up on my son, but I did weather right or wrong. Keep trying. This sight has helped me so much.
My son likes compliments. I have to keep them understated, or he thinks I am “just saying that”. But I compliment him when it is deserved. Sometimes it is a big thing, sometimes small -
“You are being so kind to our friend’s kids, I’m sure they enjoy having you over.”
“That shirt looks nice on you.”
“Your cat clearly enjoys the attention you’re giving him.”
“That was a nice thing to say.”
“That soap sure smells nice.”
I really like your take on not giving bs compliments,my son also knows when we are not sincere.We are still learning,he is 36 years old and he just got diagnosed.It is really hard on us.He is living with us.I’m really glad i have found this support group because i will be needing all the help i can get.Thank you and lets hope for the best.
Absolutely, at least with my experience. My son is 32 years old and when I give him a true compliment he smiles like a little boy. I had to write an essay on someone I look up to as a leader and I chose Dan, my son, for this essay. I wrote about how he keeps working on getting better and has had many challenges and doesn’t give up It was a beautiful tribute to him and how proud I am of him. He cherished my words and I do believe he did for a moment feel good about himself and his place in this scary world. Being honest and giving true feedback and compliments will always be a good thing in my opinion since they are so often hearing about what is wrong with them and not what is right or perfect for where they are. Thanks for the question and reminder. I teach a Family to Family class for NAMI and I am learning about the language using “I” statements and not YOU YOU YOU, which is judgmental . Who doesn’t want a compliment for a job well done. I know I do.
Yes, it’s really bad for self-esteem. When my son was psychotic, though, it did seem to calm him down when he was ranting at me if I just looked straight at him and said, “I love you. You’re my son. I love you.” Outside psychosis my son is a bit compliment-averse but he does take on board genuine positive assessments of his capabilities. He has only recently started describing himself as having schizophrenia. He used to resist that description. But a few months ago he found that he could have the chance to go to university again and he moved like the wind to get all his documentation, references, applications, etc done on time. He was accepted to study engineering but withdrew because he decided he really wants to study maths. I said it’s his choice but that I was impressed by how effective and fast he was being and how good his social competence was (getting references etc). I told him that I had thought he had problems with motivation because of his illness but he had really proved he could still achieve stuff. He did a kind of double take but didn’t reject it. Since then he has made more steps to improve his life. He started playing a sport and training for it, joined a walking club and goes to study maths in the public library every day. So, yes, I think genuine compliments have a good effect.
He sometimes has a vicious bout of self-hatred and I tell him off! I say “You wouldn’t say such vicious, nasty things about anyone else so stop saying them about yourself.
Also, step by step, as he recovers, it’s possible to point to things he has achieved (learning to cook, living alone, decorating his flat, etc) so he is winning back his self-esteem.
You did not give up on your son, but you recognized that you cannot solve all problems. This is where a NAMI Family Support Group can be so helpful, too, if you have that opportunity. You have been enduring your loved one’s illness for a long time. Things can change, so don’t give up. There may be another “window” someday. I’m glad the sharing on this site is helpful.