In my three-kids-in-six-years tenure as a mom, it has felt like I’m in an ongoing game of Tetris: getting dealt a variety of parenting-challenge pieces, and having to flip and shift them in an attempt to create a solid base for my kids to stand on as they grow.
One of the most complicated things to navigate has been learning to parent them individually . . . knowing that each one uniquely receives love and reacts to discipline.
But, I’ve also learned I have a universal standard with which I interact with each one of them. It’s what I come back to when I feel the pieces start to pile up in chaos. I ask myself these two things:
- Is this teaching them the importance of kindness?
- Have I told them how much I love them today?
While I do everything I can to be a living example of treating people the right way, and SHOWING them how much space they hold in my heart . . . I also believe in the power of words, and these are a few of the ones I use to instill this sentiment in them:
“I love being your Mommy.”
Think about when someone says, “I love having you as my friend” or a spouse says, “I’m lucky to have you.” It’s nice to feel valued, right? I want my kids to feel the same.
Because of that, every so often I’ll whisper “I love being your mommy” in their ear, and it always gets a big smile or an extra-long hug. I know there are times they can sense my stress as I navigate life and motherhood . . . but in the end, I want them to know being a part of their lives is one of my greatest joys.
“I’m so happy to see you!”
One of the things I value in my life is being seen. Feeling thought of. Walking into a room and being greeted as if I were missed.
When we are around certain people every day, sometimes we take them for granted. So, I do my best to make sure my kids know how good it makes me feel to see them. Whether it’s greeting them with this sentiment when they wake up, or whispering this in their ear when they come out of school, I want them to know I not only see them, but that it brings me happiness to get to.
“You look beautiful, today! But what makes you the most beautiful?”
I know there is debate about how we talk to our daughters about the way they look. Some say we shouldn’t always tell them they look beautiful because we should focus on other things. Others say we can’t say it enough as we help them develop a positive self-image.
I believe in both.
That’s why this is something I say to my six-year-old daughter often. Whenever I tell her she looks pretty, I always follow it up by asking, “but what makes you the most beautiful?”
She answers, “My heart.”
She knows that means no matter how beautiful she is on the outside, it doesn’t matter if she isn’t presenting her heart in a beautiful way, too.
Things like choosing kindness when interacting with our friends . . . forgiving people . . . thinking of others . . . showing love to our family . . .
A fancy dress won’t hide the absence of these things. The heart has to lead.
There was a point in a particular season of mothering that I heard the words “stop” coming out of my mouth almost every other sentence. “Stop yelling,” or “Stop being mean to your brother,” or “Stop taking things out of your sister’s hands without asking.”
It didn’t feel good, and it certainly didn’t add any positivity into negative air. So, in an effort to shift, I started simply substituting the words “Choose kindness.” They now know that means to use their manners, to change the tone in their voice, or to simply remember to let love lead.
“Do you want to know one of my favorite things about you?”
Recently, I had some solo time with my son. I looked at him in my rearview mirror and said, “Hey bud, do you want to know one of my favorite things about you?” He smiled before I could even say anything . . . and started kicking his legs around in the excitement about, and anticipation of, hearing a compliment.
“I love that you always like to make people laugh,” I told him. He put his hands to his face and giggled before starting to act goofy, hoping to bring the laughter out of me.
I say this randomly to my kids as a way to reinforce the best parts of their personalities, and the strongest parts of their hearts so they never forget to use them often . . . and they always remember they have something amazing to offer to the world.
Listen . . . I’m not a perfect mother.
There are days I yell “stop” all day long. I often let stress come in the way of telling my kids how much they are loved. I find myself constantly telling my kids what they are doing wrong instead of praising them for everything that makes them wonderful.
But I am doing the very best I can.
And while I believe my actions will always be the greatest influence on my kids, I don’t think it negates the power of my words.
And I hope my kids will always remember mine and smile . . . right before they head out into the world letting kindness and love lead.