Do NOT run around the house with those muddy shoes!
Whose lunchbox was left in the car? Someone get it! Pronto!
Three unmade beds and three messy rooms? Come ON guys—get back upstairs and clean up!
Each of these statements has come out of my mouth at one time or another, and I’m not proud to admit it.
But I know I’m not alone.
As a parent, it’s really, really hard to focus on our kids’ positive behavior because it takes time, effort, and serious energy For me, it requires a concerted effort to shift from the negative to the positive, but I know the benefits far outweigh the effort, especially for my youngest.
Usually, on a morning we’re running late, if I say in a loud enough voice to whoever has made it down to the breakfast table first, Thank you so much, for getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and coming downstairs today without having me ask you or call for you. It’s going to be a great day! Usually, the other kids will follow suit and come bounding down the stairs. Not always, but sometimes. And as a busy mom, I’ll take whatever I can get.
Or, after school: Thank you so much for putting your shoes away, hanging your coat up, and unpacking your backpack. It really makes me smile when I don’t have to remind you. You’re showing me that you’re becoming more responsible—and I appreciate it.
It may sound corny, fake, and contrived, but with time, it actually starts to sound normal. And the coolest thing is that my kids feel good when they hear this kind of thing coming from their mom’s mouth, and as a mom, I feel great saying it. When it’s negative after negative after negative and nag, nag, nag, I feel drained, the kids feel drained, and the whole house feels like it’s got a grey cloud hanging over it.
So often when my kids come home and I ask how their day went, they want to tell me about all of the kids who misbehaved that day. Jona got on red! He yelled at the teacher! Or, Mommy, Courtney hit Brianna, and so Courtney had to sit on the think chair during playtime.
Of course my first instinct is to prod them about the details of the situation. I am an educator; I spent time in those classrooms and dealt with my own misbehaving students’ issues, so I am always curious about how a teacher handled a tough time. And I’ll be honest: I’m curious about which kids are acting up in class so I can keep my eye out for them.
However, I deliberately reverse the focus. I say, Oh, that’s too bad. I’m sorry that [whomever] was having such a bad day. I hope tomorrow’s better. Now tell me who was the most polite student in your class today.
Or I’ll ask who was the most helpful, kind, quiet, or respectful student. Because what I’ve found is that my kids want to be the best in the class. They want the gold star, the A-plus, the award, the prize, the trophy. They want to talk about their successes. Like we all do.
So as hard as it is, I try to set them up for success and focus on the positive.