3 Simple changes to grow a happier family

Image credit D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr

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.

If you have started Pillow Journals with your kids or a Thanksgiving Journal for your spouse, you can jot notes permanently within those pages, especially as sweet tidbits of gratitude.

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!


Sharing at NOBH, Better Mom, Finding Heaven, Things I Can’t Say, Denise in Bloom

Image credit – D. Sharon Pruitt, via Flickr

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  1. I’m working on this one, Kim. Thanks for the great advice and nudge in the “positive direction.” :)

  2. I love the message of your post, Kim – that we can make the effort to intentionally emphasize the positive. My kids definitely respond better to this type of “discipline.” And come to think of it, so do I! Thanks for the encouraging reminders today.

    • My kids always responded better as well, although I had to constantly relearn this lesson. . . Thanks for coming by!

  3. These are all great. I really try to form positive requests but it definitely it is a discipline. I just automatically react with a “Don’t….”

    • Elizabeth, I wonder if it’s a brain wiring thing or just more of an ingrained habit? I think many of us default to the “don’t” as well.

  4. What great words of wisdom. I will definitely be using more positive words with my kids this week. Thanks for the tips.

  5. Love these, Kim – and you’re absolutely right! Words matter!!
    Thanks for sharing YOURS today :)
    Hugs from VA,

    • Awww, thanks Susan. You always have such sweet things to say. I appreciate when you stop by and share yours. <3

  6. You are right on, Kim. If you want a behavior repeated, praise it. Also, thanks for the reminder of thank you notes. I used to write notes on the napkin in my son’s lunch box. Just because he’s now 27 and no longer carries a lunch box, I still need to put my appreciation for him on the page.

    • My oldest daughter is 27 and married, Connie, so I hear you. Plus, she lives 2 hours away from us. I know I still thrill to finding little notes of encouragement, so I don’t think we ever get too old for that!

  7. “Remember that what we pay attention to grows.” LOVE that reminder. Thanks

  8. Great stuff, Kim!! I love doing some of these things with my husband– little notes or texts of encouragement, and I am currently in transformation mode of letting God soften my heart to be encouraging in everything I do, instead of getting all in a tizzy when the army does something uncool that impacts our marriage.

    It’s a process– but God is at work. Thanks for these words! Blessings to you!

    • Ah, processes. I know they are important for many things, including our learning, but sometimes I’d just like to jump to the end.
      I am so glad for you that you are opening yourself up to his encouraging prompts. I know when I do I feel better. Blessings back to you, Sharita!

  9. Thank you for such encouragement and a good strategies…hubby and I are trying hard to practically eliminate “no”, “don’t”, and “stop” from our speech regarding the kids. As a teacher I can testify that this works…when I would say to kids, “We walk in the halls.” they would always stop running or at least slow down. Positive words are greater agents for change. No one likes to be nagged or criticized harshly! I am going to have to check out the pillow journals! Thank you for reminding me of what is important in my family:to build them up!

    • Thank you for encouraging me today, Dionne, and you are welcome. Loved your thoughtful comment.
      Isn’t it funny how the kids will slow to a walk, or a race-type walk? When we gather at my mom’s and the 15 neices and nephews are there, I find myself saying “thank you for walking in the house” often! I smile at the idea of a hallway of kids slowing down at your request. :-)

  10. Such wise advice in this post – chock full!

  11. Such great advice…I am constantly having to remind myself to state a request in a positive statement…your pillow journal idea sounds wonderful also…Thanks, Kim, for sharing your wisdom :)

  12. Kim – great advice here! Just wanted to stop by, say hello, and thank you for visiting me. Have a blessed day!

  13. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with the world! I am going to start pillow journals this week, thanks to you (what we pay attention to grows – one of my mantras now :)

  14. I try to make it a point to say one thing I appreciate about my kids every day. I don’t always succeed, but I try. And I want my compliments to be specific.

  15. This is such a good message. I struggle with this on a regular basis- but my kids definitely respond better to positive messages than to nagging or negativity. Thanks for sharing!

    • You are welcome, Ashley. Not only are you setting a great example to your kids when you notice the good, but it also helps build that habit. Love your blog, by the way!

  16. These were lovely suggestions. I can say that the compliment can work wonders in a marriage and family. Many years ago I was struggling with the thoughts that my husband wasn’t helping me very much. I learned in a class to look for things to compliment him on. As I did I received so much in return. He helped more and I also say how much he was really helping me before. I highly reccomend doing just that for both your spouse and your children. Blessings to you for this one!

    • Thanks for sharing your story, LeAnn! What a testimony to the power of looking for the good and letting our loved ones know we’ve noticed. I have no doubt there will be moms influenced by your success!

  17. I have been working very hard recently on positive parenting. It brings a much better result, and the home is so much more peaceful. Of course, I’ve stumbled more than once, but I am trying and it does make a huge difference. Great post!

    • As another mom said to me, Adrienne: as long as we keep getting back up more than we stumble and fall down, we can continue to work at being the best moms we know how to be. Thanks for your sweet words.

  18. Love these simple ideas to love our family members. Especially the notes lying around in random places. I used to do this all the time for my husband and I need to do that again. Thanks!

    • You are welcome! I imagine your husband would love to see those notes again! They can seem so silly, but they can be very powerful.

  19. Oh my! Love the garden analogy! AWESOME post! :) Hopping from Life in Bloom.

    • Mindy, I just love your enthusiasm. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face today! Glad you loved the post, and I hope you are able to use some of these pointers.


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