Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Oh Say, Can You See? (Oh See, Can You Say?)

I'll be honest. I hesitate to give out parenting advice. Because it's hard. And I'm wrong a lot. And my kids-- while adorable-- are rarely the models of optimum human behavior. More often than not, their stories are cautionary tales.

They are, you see, a lot like their mama-- much as I try to get them NOT to be.

But last night I had a moment. And at some point during the night (when I was supposed to be sleeping, mind you), I decided to share that moment with you. I even came up with this clever title which, at the time, seemed divinely inspired. (You might be thinking God is not usually associated with such pithy things... and you would be right. But things seem different in the middle of the night, no?)

So go with my title, and go with this bit of parenting insight. It's not advice, per se, it's more just a moment I'm sharing. Here goes...

The other night one of my children brought home some bad grades. We talked to the child in question and there were some tears as a result-- mostly because this child felt we didn't understand the situation and weren't being fair (sound familiar, parents?). This child went around feeling slighted and unappreciated and was mostly just having a pity party.

After a few minutes I went to the child and looked them in the eye. And then I spoke. And, for once, what came out of my mouth was exactly the right thing. (Mark this in the "miracle" category because I'm not one for the exact right words at the exact right time. That's why I'm a writer-- because it takes me several drafts to get it right.)

But anyway, instead of lecturing or instructing (as I'm normally prone to do), I simply told the child what I saw when I looked at them. I said "This is who you are." And then I listed off the wonderful things about this child. Mostly what I said was "You are not those bad grades. You're something so far above this one moment in time."

As I said those things, I saw the child's spirits lift. I saw the sadness fall away and hope take its place. The child walked away from me different, and the tears (and pity party) stopped. Later that night (as I said) I was thinking about that moment-- why it worked and how I could implement this tactic more often. Why did it matter that I said those things? Didn't the child know I felt this way about them? Did they need reminding?

Well, in short, of course. The child needed reminding. We all need reminding. I got to thinking about how my husband needs to be reminded and my children need to be reminded and I need to be reminded and my friends could probably use some reminding and, if I know this, why don't I do it more? What would it be like if I chose to cast vision through my words more than I lectured and instructed? Not that instruction and guidance isn't necessary-- it definitely is, I'm not mandating a touchy-feely, self-esteem focus that turns people into egomaniacs and narcissists.

I'm coming at this from the angle of someone who is already good at the guidance. I can chart the course with the best of them-- but I forget the wind for their sails.

And so I thought I'd share this bit of insight. I should say what I see more often. Because they may not know. Or they may have forgotten. Or they may think I don't see. And if I don't say what I see, well then they'll never know how amazing I think these people I love are. And that would be tragic.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reminder! I don't do this enough. I think the positives about my kids so much, but forget that I haven't actually told them. Yes, it has a fantastic impact on my husband, too, when I remember to do it. Here's to more positive comments!

Pam said...

Yes, a great reminder for me too! I'm also quick to chart the course and forget the wind for the sails. Thank you for this!

And I'll go as far as to thank HIM for this because I happen to believe HE is very much in the details of our writing, even inspiring catchy titles like this one for this post : ) And a lot of my writing does come in the middle of the night : )

BethA said...

Love this post!! Thank you, Marybeth!

Bridget said...

This post was most definitely God inspired...don't doubt it! It is the answer I needed to hear as we are dealing with a child with bad grades. (Tears are falling as I type this.) We have said much (loudly)about the path and getting on it. However, this post reminded me that very little has been said about their sweet, gentle, compassionate, grace-giving, stinking funny self. I'm off to say it now. Thanks.