by Rebecca Eanes on Apr 3rd, 2017
"...we are trained to only celebrate our children when they are accomplishing something grand, and we gloss over the everyday moments..."
I recently saw a clip on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday with Dr. Shefali Tsabary that spoke to my heart. Dr. Tsabary says we are trained to only celebrate our children when they are accomplishing something grand, and we gloss over the everyday moments such as when they tie their laces, helping them brush their teeth, and when they get up in the morning. She says, “It is all these moment-to-moment instances that call for connections.”
I began to think about how often I celebrate my children. When do I celebrate them and why? When do you? I, too, am guilty of celebrating them mostly in moments of achievement and glossing over the ordinary moments that occur in our everyday life. Each human being desires to be seen, known, and celebrated not for what we accomplish, but for who we are. Our children need to know that they matter, and that we still celebrate them, even when they lose the game, bring home a D+, leave their towels on the floor, or need help with simple tasks.
My son brought home a math paper with a bad grade on it last week. I was irritated with him because it wasn’t a hard math sheet. He knew how to do it; he just rushed through without working the problems out on paper. I said, “I need you to do better than this.” He replied, “But mom, you said in your book that I am more than a grade.”
It’s true. There is a quote in Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide that says, “Children are more than their ability to sleep through the night. They are more than their willingness to instantly obey. They are more than a grade. They are more than a mood. They are more than they display at any given moment, more than what we see on the surface. They are human beings. Messy and beautiful, wild and compassionate, and worth getting to know, not just getting to mind.”
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have said, “I need you to do better than this” point blank. I could have used a more positive approach and asked what he needed help with in a gentler manner. I did offer to sit down with him and work though the problems he missed, but he was already defensive by that point. That’s okay though! We are all allowed mistakes, and we are all learning every day.
Sometimes I forget what Dr. Gordon Neufeld said in his book, Hold On To Your Kids. “Children do not experience our intentions, no matter how heartfelt. They experience what we manifest in tone and behavior.” Yes, I feel love for them at all times, not just when they are achieving greatness, but what are they perceiving? What are they feeling from me? If I only show approval when they excel and disapproval when they fail, what is the message they are getting? Do my children feel like they need to work for my approval? These are questions worth asking ourselves regularly because it’s so easy to default to old patterns and paradigms.
I began thinking of ways I can be more conscious in celebrating my children in the ordinary everyday moments. I’ll share my ideas below. You may want to copy them down or print them out and add your own as well.
- Notice and compliment small steps in the right direction. Maybe my son’s next math sheet won’t be an A, but I will celebrate a C. “Hey, you did better on this one. You must have really worked hard on it. Awesome!” The message is you don’t have to be perfect. Progress is good.
- Make a habit of saying “life-giving” words on a daily basis. Here are some examples:
Spending time with you makes me happy.
I love seeing your smiling face this morning.
You are a wonderful thing to wake up to.
I’m proud of you for who you are.
I love you no matter what.
You are so much fun to be with.
You bring a lot of joy to our family.
I am happy to share my life with you.
- Take them out for a treat for no reason. Go for frozen yogurt or ice cream “just because.” Have a small party just to celebrate family with cupcakes that simply say, “I love you.” Blow up balloons and fill their room with them for a fun surprise. Write affirmations on each balloon. This is a tangible way to celebrate them on an ordinary day for no special occasion.
- Fill your child’s emotional cup. Sometimes we get caught up in the rush and routines of the everyday and aren’t conscious about filling up our children emotionally. This just means helping them feel loved, valued, accepted, and approved of. Take each child on a one-on-one date with mom or dad. Leave love notes in their lunchbox, on their pillow, and taped to the bathroom mirror. Take a few extra moments for affection. Offer a back rub or a hug. Ruffle their hair or give them a pat on the back when you pass by them. Smile when they enter the room and make eye contact. These simple things take only a small amount of time but really convey the message “you matter to me all the time.”
- Speak appreciation for the everyday things your kids do that are kind, good, or helpful. I know it always makes me feel good when sometimes says they appreciate the article I wrote or the meal I made or the clean-smelling house. How often do we tell our kids we appreciate that they put their toys away or fed the cat or shared with a sibling? Because we expect these things to occur, we usually only notice when they don’t. Make a habit of noticing the positive.