A couple of years ago, I read this piece about changing the way I speak to my children. It resonated immediately.
Even though I meant well with my words, telling my daughter that she’s an excellent hula hooper, or my son that he’s a good builder, was forging an unintentional path for them. It created tension. I was placing value on what they were doing instead of on finding their passion, or enjoying the activity they were doing. I was labeling them, and their future selves- something I did not want to do.
So I stopped. Instead of telling my children that they were good at something, or how they could be better, I took the author’s advice and started telling my kids that I love watching them.
“I love watching you hula-hoop”. “I love watching you build”. “I love watching you paint, or jump, or play hopscotch”. “I love watching you play soccer.”
As I practiced this, I became aware that, like everything, I could manipulate these words to control my kids. I became conscious of staying quiet instead of saying things like “I love watching you be kind to people”. If I cannot find a way to say it without judgement, I don’t say it. Manipulating my kids into practicing kindness, or sharing, or thoughtfulness is an oxymoron. My kids will learn these things if they are modeled for them- if they experience it, from their dad and me.
One Step Further
I am madly, deeply, and whole-heartedly in love with my children. Multiple times each day, my eyes fill with tears as I look at them, or hug them, or watch them. They are the cutest, most awesome, loving little beings I have ever known in my whole life. Sometimes I literally feel like I might jump out of my own skin, because I am so overwhelmed by how much I love them.
This manifested itself in me saying things like “you are soooooo cute!” or “I can’t even take how adorable you are! I just want to eat you up!” (That looks so weird written out!). Something about these words was always uncomfortable to me. Both of my children are so much more than that.
I struggled with what to say instead though- if I didn’t say something, I would explode. I just knew it. I needed to acknowledge how in love with them I am. I needed to say out loud how much I love being their mom.
And there it was. Just like the author in the original piece, I had the words to express what I was feeling: I love being your mom.
Practice Makes Better
I am still learning, and sometimes I still say “you are sooooo cute”, but not very often. Most of the time now when we are snuggling on the couch, having a tickle fight, or reading together, and those tears form in my eyes, I simply say “I love being your mom!”.
Instead of being an evaluator, I am a supporter. Instead of bringing up feelings of negativity and pressure, I share words free of judgement, and control. I remove myself as the person who determines where their worth lies.
It may seem like a small- even insignificant change, but it wasn’t. At least not in my family. For my children and I it has brought deeper connection, appreciation, and respect between us. No longer am I the judge of whether or not they are good at something. No longer do I dictate whether or not they are worthy of love and praise. No longer is their hula hooping or building an opportunity for me to hold the power.
I know some parents don’t want this. I do though. I want my children to find what they love, to pursue what brings them joy. I want them to find intrinsic value, so they are less susceptible to bullying, peer pressure, and people who are unkind.
I want my children to have real inner strength, integrity, and happiness. For this to happen, they need to look within. If I continually value and judge externally, I am modeling all the wrong things.
There are so many things to reflect on and change when we become a parent. Having my children consistently know how much I love being their mom- no matter what their painting looks like, or whether or not they’ve scored a goal, is one of my favorite changes of all.