I am by no means the perfect mother. I am guilty of being lazy, losing my patience and my temper, and I know I spend too much time on my phone. I try every day to work on my flaws and to be conscious of the things that I do and say to my girls in order to set a good example and to make them feel loved, appreciated and encouraged.
A little while back I was shopping in Gymboree and heard a mom call her 4(ish) year old daughter (who was acting silly) "you little slut." I'm pretty sure I froze in my tracks trying to figure out if I heard what I thought I did. This got me thinking about how big of an impact our words can have on our children's self worth.
There are a few things I say to my girls every single day, that I hope will encourage and build them up.
1. I love you
I absolutely overuse this phrase (if there is such a thing). I say it when we get up in the morning, when we're snuggling, when we're being silly, when Raley gets in trouble, when we're arguing, at bedtime, etc. etc. These two precious little girls will never doubt my love for them. Just wait, when they start saying it back, it absolutely melts your heart.
2. Thank you
Thank you for listening. Thank you for saying ____. Thank you for sharing with me/Audrey/friends. Thank you for helping me clean up.
We have tried to instill good manners in Raley since she started talking and are even starting to teach Audrey (we're pretty sure she can say thank you:) We try to set a good example and give them the same respect and gratitude that we ask of them. Saying "thank you" also helps them feel appreciated and know that we approve of/encourage good behavior.
3. You're (insert positive adjective here)
Sweet, funny, smart, strong, silly, kind, good...
Young children believe they are what you tell them they are. If they hear negative things they will begin to think that way. If they are told they're dumb, they'll think they're dumb. If they're told they're weird, they'll think they're weird. If they're told they're bad, they'll think they're bad.
I made the mistake one time of saying "bad girl" to Raley when she did something wrong. A couple of days later (long after the incident was over) I told her "you're such a good girl!" She got really sad and said "no I'm not, I'm a bad girl." This shattered my heart into a million pieces and that was the last time I said those words to her. This reiterated to me more than ever that they believe they are what you tell them.
We try to steer clear of words like weird, ugly, fat, stupid, dumb, idiot, etc. We even try not to use them in adult conversation when the kids are around, because they pick up things so easily at this age. Even "silly" insults like stupid-head and dumbo can be hurtful. Plus you don't want them taking those words with them to school and saying them to other kids.
I make it a point to tell my girls positive things all day long. If they do something smart, I tell them. If they do something funny, I tell them. If they do something sweet, I tell them. This boosts confidence, encourages good behavior, and sets an example of how they should talk to others.
4. You can do it
We are in an awkward phase with Raley between wanting to be independent and still wanting things to be done for her. I try to let her do things by herself when appropriate (she's only 3 so she still isn't completely independent). There are times she asks me to do things for her that I know she can do. When this is the case I encourage her to do it on her own.
I think I've used this phrase the most in regards to potty training. For a while she was very resistant to it and took a lot of encouragement. I want her to know that she is capable and if she tries she can do whatever she puts her mind to.
|This photo was at parents' night at dance class. We know she loves to dance because she dances all the time at home. But she gets very shy when we come to watch her in class. By the end of class she opened up and danced a little bit. You can do it, Raley Bug!|
5. You make me happy
I want them to know that they light up my world just by being in it. I've also noticed that Raley cares when I'm not happy. If I'm upset about something (whether it be at something she did or something else) she notices and does what she can to make it better, which tends to make me smile.
6. You're good at _______
I probably use this phrase the most. When they're doing something they're proud of, doing something they're afraid to do, or if there's a good behavior I want to reinforce, I tell them they are doing a good job.
You're a good helper/listener/singer/dancer/big sister. You draw such pretty pictures. You're doing such a good job going potty. You're doing a good job eating
I simply want them to know that they're doing a good job and to keep it up.
|My little one is getting so good at eating table food on her own!|
7. You're beautiful
This goes back to number 3. I want them to know they are beautiful inside and out. I want them to be confident. I don't want them to have body issues. I struggled with feeling "skinny" and "pretty" when I was younger (and still do sometimes) because I would compare myself to other people. I want my girls to feel better about themselves than I did growing up. Plus they really are beautiful!
I read a post by a fellow blogger a while back that really stuck with me. In this post the author talked about how her mom gave her a piece of advice which changed the way she made parenting decisions. She said "Don't say no when you can say yes." I am so thankful that I came across this post because it has since changed my way of thinking as well.
P.S. Follow Erica at Whimsical September - she writes some great stuff!
There are things I won't always give her just because she asks. I try to regulate the amount of sweets and the amount TV time they get. I hardly ever let her play with my phone anymore (she used to want it all the time and would throw a fit when it was time to put it away. We had to nip that in the bud real quick.)
But if I don't have a good reason to say no, I try to say yes, even if it's inconvenient.
When she asks if she can change dress up outfits for the 20th time that morning, I say yes.
When she asks me to dance with her when I'm in the middle of making dinner, I stop what I'm doing and say yes.
When she asks me to "fly" her down the stairs wearing her Tinker Bell wings, I say yes.
When she asks me to lay with her just a little bit longer at bed time, I say yes.
When she asks me to hold her, I say yes.
Because it won't be much long before she won't be asking these things anymore. So I'll keep saying yes.
|On this day Raley wanted Audrey to dress up like Cinderella too. Pretty little Princesses!|
|This was a major "yes" day. I had a special day planned for the two of us (more on that soon). She put on her Rapunzel dress that morning and asked (oh so sweetly) if she could wear it. Of course I said yes. She wanted to look at all the jewelry in Belk, so I said yes. She asked if Santa would bring her "that purple one." We'll have to take that up with him. 😜|
9. I'm happy to see you
After a long day at work, or even when we first wake up in the morning, I want them to know how happy I am to be with them. They are my everything and even if I have to be away from them for a while, they should know that I will always come back and would much rather spend time with them. A few months ago Raley started saying this to me when I'd walk through the door (before I could say it to her) and it makes my heart want to explode! I could have the worst day, but to come home to a toddler who says "I'm so happy to see you, Mommy" and a great big hug makes everything float away.
10. I'm proud of you
This is another one that I say quite a bit during potty training, but have tried to make it a point to say in other aspects of her life too. I am incredibly proud of the sweet, silly, smart girl she is growing into and she needs to know just that.
There are days when I feel like all I'm doing is getting onto her. Don't do that. Don't touch that. You're being too rough with your sister. Be careful. Don't climb over the couch.
Those days when she's defiant and grouchy are the days that exhaust me most but they're also the ones when I try extra hard to be positive and encouraging. When she does something good I try and be sure to point it out and tell her I'm proud of her.
I'm not saying I never discipline my kids, because I do. When we do have to discipline her, we then talk about why she got in trouble, what the right thing to do is, encourage her to say she's sorry, and then share hugs, kisses and I love you's.
My goal in life is to raise happy, strong, confident, kind, christian girls who will spread positivity to others. I strongly believe that the way to do this is to start in the home with language that they hear every single day.
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