Several of the classes with whom I work at The Hope Institute are specially designed for children with behavioral issues and disorders. Usually those students are some of the sweetest and most enthusiastic kids I see all week, but there are times where it is very apparent why they were placed in that particular classroom.

One of the problems we often seen is disrespectful interactions with peers. Whether it is a gesture, verbal exchange, or even a look, such behavior can set off not only the involved students, but also can result in classroom-wide disruption.

Respect is a word that is spoken often around here, and I wanted to echo its importance in my music therapy sessions. One of the simplest ways to do so is to foster positive interactions between students – the goal of this song:

You can help somebody feel good today,
Do you know the easiest way?
Just give a compliment to someone else.
Think of something nice to say.

The first time I led this activity, it was like pulling teeth to have students volunteer and compliment a peer of their choosing. However, after everyone had a turn, hands were going up for seconds and thirds. It is sweet to see these outgoing, outspoken kids suddenly become shy as they either give or receive a compliment, but it is apparent how much they enjoy giving them and how much it means to be on the receiving end.

This has become a weekly activity in the behavior-centered classrooms. I sing the verse, call on a volunteer to take his or her turn, and then sing the verse again before the next student goes. They know what to do, but the lyrics remind them that they are causing good feelings in their peers just by giving a simple compliment.