I am a creature of habit. Where another person might value spontaneity and novelty, I appreciate predictability and stability. I don’t know if my children have learned to appreciate predictability because I have modeled it, or because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but we all have a bit of anxiety in new situations. In order to combat our nerves, we have developed some phrases that we say in our home, usually on a daily basis, that we hope will give our boys some positive things to think upon as they grow up.
- Be Brave. I regularly give encouragement to my boys with this simple statement. Growing up is scary and unpredictable. We’re hoping to inspire our boys to be courageous by remembering the phrase “be brave” when they need encouragement to walk into kindergarten for the first time, climb the play structures at the park, or eventually do really scary things, like go off to college.
- I love you. I don’t think these words can be spoken often enough. I try to tell my kids and husband I love them before we part ways everyday so the words will ring in their ears and know how I feel about them.
- Help your teachers and be kind to your friends. Above all else, the most important actions of my children are that they be helpful and kind. I remind them to pay attention to the needs of others, whether it’s a child in need of a friend, or a teacher in need of a hand. When my kids begin to notice that others have a need and are helpful, I am so proud.
- I’m sorry. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I sometimes yell at my children. I sometimes “forget” to replace those batteries my kids bug me about to change in their noisy toy. When my boys were younger, I used to force them to say “I’m sorry” when they took a toy from a friend or hit in response to anger. They would mumble out a pathetic “I’m sorry” through clenched teeth. It clearly was not heartfelt. I’ve since changed my expectations and have begun to point out when I make a mistake and tell them I’m sorry in order to model sincere apologies instead of getting in the habit of saying things just to make someone else feel better. My heart wants to explode when I hear one child apologize to the other unsolicited!
- I need space. As soon as my boys were able to move independently, they have been all up in each others business. We used to get lots of hitting reactions and screams of frustration. We’ve started saying, “I need space” when the boys or my husband or I are feeling a bit overwhelmed.
- Thank you. Gratitude is something we are trying to instill in our children. I often fear that they will begin to feel entitled or expect things. I hope that they will feel gratitude toward others and that they will be able to help others feel important simply by saying thanks.
- Do your best/I did my best. I often strive to help my kids understand that if something is worth doing, it’s worth having put my best effort into. At times, they have rushed through a project so they can move on to something else. As long as they try their best, that is what I am concerned about. I also model to them that I am doing my best. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way I (or they) would like, but as long as I am trying my best with them, I will be satisfied.
- Take a deep breath. We use this phrase ALL the time. When they are angry, we stop, take a deep breath and relax. When they are revved up and having a hard time calming down to go to sleep at night, we count to 5 or 10 and take a deep breath. When they are so excited they can’t even tell me what they are thinking about, we stop and take a deep breath. It helps all of us to regroup. My children have picked up that when I am getting frustrated, I take a deep breath, and they often will follow my lead and do the same!
- I’m so proud to be your mom. I tell my children this every single night before they fall asleep. My hope is that even when we’ve had struggles during the day, they know just how proud I am to be their mom.
Above all else, if I can help my children to know that they are loved, worthy and important, I will feel like I’m doing my best. Our phrases remind us in the midst of anxiety, unpredictability, and hard situations, that in the end, we are going to be all right!