You carefully prepare the soil and plant two identical gardens. In the first, the little seedlings are nurtured, fertilized, mulched and weeded with an abundance of love, patience and attention.
The other plot gets nothing from you except for an occasional condemnation: “Why can’t you grow up big and strong like your sibling?”
Oh, fine. I’m kidding about making mean comparisons between your tender sprouts.
I am, however, illustrating a point from a previous post that really resonated with readers:
When you see children patiently waiting for their folks, or just looking with their eyes instead of their hands, let them and their parents know you’ve noticed. Remember that what we pay attention to grows.
As a mom you need to recognize and respond positively to behaviors you want to flourish.
So what can you do differently?
Make these three simple changes to grow more happiness:
Do vs Don’t—Change your phrasing
Quick-What picture forms in your mind when I say, “Don’t think of a red truck”?
A blue minivan?
I thought not.
A similar effect takes place when your children race through the house on their way to play outdoors, and you
holler at them sweetly say, “Don’t slam the door!”
What do you get?
A slammed door. Or multiple slammed doors, if you have lots of kids.
Here is what you say with love instead: “Shut the door quietly, please!”
And if the little ones are running, a simple, “Thank you for walking in the house!” delivered with a smile will generally get the kids to slow their pace, at least on that trip through.
Stating exactly what it is you do want gives more positive direction and will help to change the behavior over time. Just remember to be patient with your family and yourself as you train yourself to make this simple change in your requests.
Stop nagging, start encouraging
It is our motherly and wifely duty to
nag lovingly remind our family to take care of their responsibilities. After all, we are at our best when someone reminds us early and often of where we are falling short. It’s just as Proverbs 27:15-16 reminds us: A nagging spouse is like the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet; You can’t turn it off, and you can’t get away from it. (MSG)
Oops. Maybe not.
In The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman writes about the frustration of a wife who can’t get her husband to paint the bedroom, even though she has been after him for nine months. Although Dr. Chapman gave the following advice from a spouse’s perspective, it is just as applicable to use with your children:
“Look, you just told me that he knows that you want the bedroom painted. You don’t have to tell him anymore. He already knows. The second suggestion I have is that the next time your husband does anything good, give him a verbal compliment. If he takes the garbage out, say ‘Bob, I want you to know that I really appreciate your taking the garbage out.’ Don’t say, ‘About time you took the garbage out. The flies were going to carry it out for you.’ . . .Every time he does anything good, give him a verbal compliment.”
Although the woman was not happy with the advice, she took it. Calling back three weeks later, she jubilantly reported that it worked. Remember that this is not about verbal flattery, as Chapman notes. Rather, as he writes, when we receive affirming words we are far more likely to be motivated to reciprocate and do something our spouse desires.
Perhaps Proverbs 25:15 provides the best reminder here: Patient persistence pierces through indifference; gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses. (MSG)
Write it down, share out loud
Do you remember that thrill of delight when someone surprises you by leaving a little note of thanks or of a job well done?
Those few sweet words reach deep into your heart to bring forth joy, laughter, hope and love.
They remind you that you matter to your family.
Start scattering some love notes around and offer encouragement in lunchboxes, a bright morning welcome on the bathroom mirror, or a thank you on a computer keyboard.
At dinnertime, make it a habit to go around the table and ask everyone to share something positive about another family member and/or about their day. Not only does that put everyone on notice to watch for the good, but each person benefits from the encouragement. It also keeps the conversation going in a positive direction as opposed to devolving into a whine-fest.
Employing these suggestions may feel cumbersome or manufactured at first. However, the more you use them, the easier it gets.
When you take the time to look for, recognize, and encourage the good, the sooner your old habits will wither away from lack of attention and the more happiness will bloom in your home.
Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
What changes will you be making this week? Please share in the comments so we can all grow, and if you feel so inclined, share with your friends via Facebook and Twitter. Thanks so much!
Image credit – D. Sharon Pruitt, via Flickr