School is in full swing which means getting back into a routine. Which means parents getting up earlier than they have so they can get the kids up, make lunches, pack backpacks, get them to the bus or parent drop off at schools. Which means changing of sleeping patterns and probably not getting enough sleep. Which means cranky parents and kids. Which means harsh or sarcastic words being spoken to each other. Which means…on and on and on.
Transitions are hard seasons in families. Whether it’s the start of a new school year and trying to reestablish habits or something major like a move to a new city. And if we’re not careful the inner stress we feel as parents can be projected onto our children through our words.
One of my biggest mistakes as a parent has been to focus on correcting bad behavior and not focusing enough on encouraging good behavior. I tend to jump on the negative versus praising the positive.
We, as parents, must realize what we say and how we say it to our kids becomes their inner record. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesian church:
“Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” Ephesians 6:4 The Message
So how do we change the pattern that most of us have? How do we switch from always coming down on the negative and start praising the positive? Here are few ways that can help all of us make that switch and not fall victim to exasperating our kids.
Like anything else in life if I’m not intentional about it, it probably won’t happen. I have started a pattern in my morning routine recently that’s really making a difference. I give myself a pep talk (in my head) about the positive behavior I want to have in front of my family. This allows me to center my mind on the actions I want instead of the ones I don’t.
Change your inner dialogue to one that focuses on the positive and not the negative. Start being intentional about seeing the good your kids are doing and praise that. Start setting that pattern and you’ll soon see a change in your children. We all want affirmation. Your kids are no different. If you start praising them for the good they’re doing, you’ll start see that behavior more and more.
I’ll never forget the morning my daughter and I argued before she got on the school bus. I don’t even remember what we fought about but we did. And I let her get on the bus without resolving it. That was the longest day ever.
I couldn’t wait until she got home to tell her I was sorry and that I loved her. That was the last time I ever let my kids walk out the door without hearing me say “I love you”.
Use your morning to set a positive tone for the day. If you find yourself feeling rushed and stressed, then change your pattern. Get up earlier or do some things the night before. Just don’t waste that time that could be used to build up your kids to instead tear them down.
Each of our families have a natural rhythm to them. And not all of them are alike. For us we eat dinner between 5 and 5:30 pm. Others don’t eat until closer to 7 pm. That’s way too late for us but ours is probably way too early for others. Whatever your family’s rhythm is take advantage of it.
First make sure that you’re eating dinner together at the table! If you’re not, then start immediately!
Next, use that time to talk about each other’s day and then praise them! Use affirming language about what you’re proud of. Be specific in that praise. Don’t just say “I’m proud you’re a great kid”. It’s a nice thing to say but what was great about them?
Use those moments together to tell your kids what you love about them. And do it regularly.
Author Reggie Joiner says that by changing our language we can change the direction of our children’s lives. He talked about using certain phrases to help us do that. He gave a list to help us get started in doing that:
- You have really improved . . . (It will encourage them to keep growing.)
- I love the way you . . . (It will encourage them to celebrate their uniqueness.)
- I noticed how you . . . (It will encourage them to demonstrate character.)
- Thank you for . . . (It will encourage them to express gratitude.)
- I can tell how hard you worked . . . (It will encourage them to develop responsibility.)
- I bet one day you will … (It will encourage them to find hope.)
- I like hanging out with you because . . . (It will encourage them to value relationship.)
- You have helped me learn . . . (It will encourage them to show respect.)
You can add your own, but here’s the point: Start being intentional and use words over time to effect the direction of your kids future.