Here’s what I’m trying but have in no way mastered . . .
1. Saying “I’m proud of you, but you should be so proud of yourself.” Kids need to know that we are proud of them no matter what, of course. It helps them to keep a positive outlook about whatever they are trying to accomplish. But I’ve found that this process gets a huge boost when I remind my kids to be proud of themselves. I want them to be pumped about their own accomplishments, from grades to skateboard tricks. It’s not about always winning or getting first place, but about personal pride in having done something well.
2. Being appreciative. Kids do so many things each day that go unrecognized. They may be tiny things that I’ve reminded them to do a GAZILLION times, or big things that they’ve just learned how to do. They may be things that show that my kids are actually aware that other people exist around them. Telling them that I notice what they’re doing and appreciate it helps them feel good about themselves: “I love the way you got dressed today without me asking you” or “I appreciate how you let your sister go first just now.” It’s a way for me to call attention to the positive things they’re doing everyday instead of always pointing what they’ve done wrong.
3. Increasing the number of times I say “I love you.” At our house, we make it a point that “I love you” is the first thing and the last thing that the kids hear from us everyday. Kids need to hear those three words every day, at least once. But what about the rest of the day? There are countless other times throughout the day that I could tell my kids “I love you.” When I pass them in the hallway. When they come inside to grab a drink while playing outside. When they’re with friends and sure to be embarrassed. (Fine…I’ll pick my moments. Maybe.)
4. Giving them clothing freedom. Each of my kids has their own style and fashion sense. I love that about them. Even when their style choices may be quite different from mine, one way that I can be positive about how they dress is to give them one or more days when they get to wear whatever they want. There will be times that I need to make suggestions or help them with their clothes, but giving them a little more freedom in developing their own style—which means learning not to automatically say “You shouldn’t wear that”—helps them make decisions and feel good about themselves.
5. Giving more hugs. When I’m busy, or when all the kids have different things going on, I tend to forget how important physical touch is. Full-body hugs are one of my favorite ways to tell my son or daughter how much I love them, but there are so many times a day that a quick shoulder hug can make my kids feel loved and important, too. It could make the difference in a day being good or bad.
6. Less nagging. No kid likes to be told to do something by a parent… and then harped about it over and over again. No adult likes it, either. There will be times I may need to gently remind them to do a chore or activity, but for the most part, everyone would be a lot happier if there was less nagging about getting things done. When Mom doesn’t nag, kids can feel positive about being responsible for their own accomplishments around the house. Everyone wins.
7. Less yelling. Nothing sucks the positivity out of a child like being yelled at. (The same goes for adults.) They may have done something wrong, but yelling doesn’t make it any better, especially when it’s about something small. And that applies throughout our family. The kids react better to each other and work through problems better when no one is allowed to yell. In most cases, this helps them communicate and problem-solve without my help. Look, I don’t like to be yelled at. I’m 100% certain they don’t either.
8. Being a better role model. Ouch. If I want my kids to be positive people, then I need to be a positive person. That may mean holding back a negative or snarky comment so that my kids don’t hear it. That also means showing my kids that even if I mess up, get angry, or have my feelings hurt, how I react is important. I want my kids to know that it’s OK to have emotions. We all have them—good and bad. Learning to deal with them in a healthy way is the important part.
9. Cooking together. One thing we’ve started doing over the past year is letting the kids help us in the kitchen. While it can be a challenge, the process of cooking together is always fun. They are learning. They are cooperating. We all end up smiling. Everyone gets assigned some kind of a job. As they get more skilled and more responsible, they’ll be able to cook with less supervision. And the older kids can help the younger kids. Best case scenario: There will come a day when I’m not needed in the kitchen at all!
10. More listening. Summer is incredibly busy for us. When I take the opportunity to sit or walk or spend time with my kids and listen to the things they want to say, it tells them that their thoughts and ideas are important. It tells them that I want to know what’s going on in their little minds. When they feel like they can tell me anything, it creates a positive and open line of communication. This is important now, but it’s even more important as they grow older—when there might be bigger things they need to talk about.