*** I wrote this last year and never published it. It's too long. It's probably all common sense. But I think it matters tremendously.
I find that I'm constantly introducing my kids to new people. New neighbors. New teachers. Movers. New people are everywhere. Chances are, you are doing the same or about to do the same as your babies and big kids head back to school.
Don't forget, their little ears are listening to every.single.word. Make them count. Consider a fresh new slate, even if last year was a challenge. Dig as far as you need to find positive things to say about your kiddos. If you tell them they are amazing, and you believe they are amazing, chances are, they'll be AMAZING! Not always of course, but mostly.
"You're just going to love Carly. She's so joyful. If you need help, she loves helping others. She loves learning. She loves school. We are so excited to meet you and I can't wait for you to meet her. I just know it's going to be a great year!" I said to her new 3rd grade teacher over the phone. (Knowing that her little ears were listening and hanging on every word.)
I had almost the exact same phone conversation with Lilly's teacher, adding that she's a little shy at first, but that she'll quickly come out of her shell and you'll just love having her in your class.
And for Lukey....
"I am so excited for you to meet him. He is precious. He loves being read to. He loves learning. He loves positive praise. His preschool teachers adored him and I just know you're going to love him, too. "
And to be realistic...
"He still needs a lot of help with his pencil grip and fine motor skills, but I know that you'll be able to get him where he needs to be. He only went to preschool 2 mornings a week last year, so I know five days of Kindergarten is going to be a big change, but we'll help him in any way that we can."
Other than raising my own babies, I don't have any scientific research to prove this to be true, but I believe it with all my heart. My first real boss always said, kids will rise to however high you set the bar. Academics. Behavior. However good or bad you expect them to be, they'll be. I think she was right. Little kids almost always live up to your expectations.
Toddlers are tricky. At least ours are. I tell Boss Baby constantly, you are so kind, so smart, so beautiful, so HAPPY....but she's not always buying it! I know the truth about her. She wants my undivided attention. She hates my phone. She hates my "To-do" list. She hates any and every thing that doesn't have to do with her. We are SO close to the finish line on getting this house in order, and I am committed to giving her more and more of my time and attention. If I've learned anything from Sarah at www.memoriesoncloverlane.com, it is this, the cure for a fussy toddler is usually sitting and playing with them, but I am SO guilty of my own agenda, and she makes me pay dearly for it!
Sorry to get off on that toddler tangent. But it's true for us.
Anywho, when Mike gets home from work each day, or it used to be when he woke up, I'd always make a point to give him a rundown of everyone's good deeds for the day while they were somewhere nearby. Listening to every word, of course.
"You just wouldn't believe how many projects Lilly has helped me with today. She is so good at doing chores without complaining." or "Would you believe Carly came downstairs and made lunch for everyone without me even asking her to?"
To be perfectly honest and fair, some days there is cursing and crying and nothing but frustration on my part about the day. (I originally wrote this back in the summer.) "No one listened to me today. All they did was say, "I'm hungry or thirsty all day long. If they fight over those dang goggles one more time, we're never going to the pool again." They know either way, good or bad, dad's going to get the run down. AND they can't stand it when he's disappointed in them.
Life is certainly not all rainbows and cupcakes, and when it isn't it needs to be addressed, but dig deep for the good. As soon as you see even a smidge of goodness, SAY IT. "I am soooo proud of you for making your bed before I even asked." "I just love the way you hold your brother's hand and help him into the school." (Even though I had specifically said in advance, You need to help him out of the van and hold his hand and make sure he gets where he needs to go. Please don't ever run ahead without him.) I praise their listening to me as if it were their very own brilliant idea to do the good deed in the first place.
And then tell someone. While they are listening, of course! Call a grandparent or spouse, an aunt, and say, "You would have been so happy if you'd seen the way little Johnny did ________ today. I am so proud of him." Grandma's love to hear good things about their grandkids. Grandkids love to please their grandparents. It's really win-win for everyone!
If kids constantly hear "I am good. I am smart. I am helpful. I am kind. I matter here. I am strong" and they are provided with opportunities to successfully be each of these things, they will BELIEVE it. And they will act it. (Remember, my kiddos are sixth grade and younger, so I have NO IDEA how this theory holds up with upper middle and high schoolers, but I don't think I'll ever stop doing it.) They are NEVER great 100% of the time, but they will usually do their best to live up to the expectations we have of them.
Usually, everyone gets a LOT of grace for bad days. They get consequences for their choices, but then we quickly try to get back on track. Sometimes I think we give too much grace, if that is possible. I hear Carly telling Luke and Ella all of the time, "I'm going to give you grace this time, but please don't do that again." We ALL bad times, and that's okay. The easiest and fastest and best way to recover is to LOOK for the GOOD. Be so quick to praise any and every little good deed! Set them up for success and then make a big fuss about it to them or to a grandparent or spouse. Let them know that good behavior is WILDLY important to you. Celebrate it over and over. Be slow to anger and quick to forgive. QUICK TO FORGIVE. SO QUICK TO FORGIVE! So quick to notice and appreciate the good. If you're the momma bear, you set the tone for your family. When possible, let it be a good one!
Use your words to speak LIFE into your kiddos every chance you get. Let them hear you speak positively to them and about them to others.
I truly believe lots of praise and high expectations makes such a difference. When your new teacher calls, when you meet the new coach, when you are introducing your kiddos to anyone, remember, they are listening and they'll likely live right up to your expectations and beliefs about them. Your words matter. Make them good. It will give your family more....Joy in the Chaos.