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Are you always repeating yourself with your kids?
“Brush your teeth.”
“Comb your hair.”
“Do your homework.”
Sometimes the repetition can be exhausting. But there is actually a reason why we parents have to do this. In order for anyone to learn a new concept or adopt a habit, repetition and consistency is key. It stands to reason that our little ones need this reinforcement – even if we sound like a broken record. Parents often wonder: will it stick?
Parenting is delayed gratification in its truest form. We invest and invest in our kids, without knowing what the end result is going to be. And we never really know if we’re doing any of it correctly.
But every once in a while, we are rewarded for our efforts.
I drive my kids every morning either to school or camp. The first thing I do when we’re all buckled in is ask my kids what each of them are grateful for. This is not always easy to do. Sometimes they’re extra cranky because they didn’t sleep enough. Sometimes we’re just recovering from a yelling match because they were fighting or they weren’t cooperating in the morning and I lost it. Mornings with three small boys can be rough. But no matter how frustrating our morning is, I take a deep breath and say, “Okay, what are you thankful for? Who’s going first?”
I want the practice of gratitude to be a part of my sons’ daily routine. And no matter how frustrated or angry we are, I want to teach them that we have the power to change our attitude and our mood at any moment.
There have been days my boys have challenged me.
“We should do this at bedtime, Mom. It’s too early to know if there’s anything to be grateful for,” or
“I don’t have anything to be grateful for.”
And my response is: “Oh, that’s precisely why we do this first thing in the morning. How about saying thank you for being alive, or waking up this morning in our beautiful home, or thanking the universe for our wonderful family and that we’re all healthy? How about being thankful for the sun or for nature or for oxygen? There is so much to be grateful for that has nothing to do with how your day goes.”
Some days it’s easy. Some days it feels like I’m pulling teeth. But day after day, I ask them to express gratitude. And then I leave town.
One of the things I dislike about traveling is the disruption to the routine. It’s that control-freak mom syndrome where you feel like nothing is done correctly unless you’re the one doing it. I’m constantly asking my husband if the kids brushed their teeth or if they made their beds. They have way much more fun with their father! But they are loved and cared for and that’s what matters most. I’ve learned to accept that life is going to look a little different when the enforcer has left the fort.
The last time I was away, the most wonderful thing happened. I left before my kids woke up. When I landed, I called my husband to let him know I’d arrived. He was driving my sons to camp. We were connected via bluetooth so we could all hear each other. We said our usual “I love you” and I miss you” and then I said, “Okay guys, I have to get going so I can request an Uber to the hotel.”
“Mommy, wait!” Justin interrupted hurriedly, “What are you thankful for?”
My heart melted.
It hadn’t occurred to me to have gratitude mornings on the phone! Justin was now the enforcer and all I could think was: Oh my God, it stuck! Justin was even teaching his dad how we do mornings. And the best part of it all, my son sh0wed me that I am there even when I’m not.
“What are you thankful for, Mommy?” He repeated after a few seconds of my silence.
“I’m thankful for you buddy. So thankful for you.”
For those of you who are working hard to create meaningful relationships with your kids: Keep doing what you’re doing. Be consistent and repetitious. You may think sometimes that your kids aren’t listening or paying attention. They may not respond immediately, but they are paying attention. When you least expect it, they’ll remind you what an impact you’re making in their lives and how deeply ingrained you are in them…even when you’re not around. There is no greater reward than that.