I would consider myself a rather demanding mom. I set high standards for my children and I work hard to meet or exceed those goals. When situations become difficult or challenging, I look for new ways of accomplishing our goals rather than lowering the bar. I expect quite a bit from my children; good behavior, excelling schoolwork, cleaning up after themselves, help with household chores, and I work hard to encourage their growth in their faith.
Discipline, not necessarily just punishment, of my children is important to me. I strive to maintain a well-ordered home and an atmosphere conducive to learning during the day and family life in the evenings. This is accomplished through well-disciplined family members. To this end, I have been known to bark orders, to expect immediate obedience, to push children in their education and in their own self-discipline. I hold the bar out there and expect them to sail over it. I need to be demanding, I need to care that my children succeed. I should absolutely want the best for them and expect the best from them.
That being said, my kids need to know that my high expectations are in place only because I love them and want the best for them. I want to push them to be the best they can be because I care so much about them. While this seems intuitive to me, it probably isn't intuitive to my two-year-old, or for that matter even the ten-year-old.
I was reminded last week that I need to tell my children I love them often. That doing so is one way of giving them help over that bar. I need to do this not just when tucking them into bed, although I wouldn't want to forget that, but many, many times throughout the day. We all like to hear those beautiful words, I love you.
So last week I started saying it over and over again to my children. Randomly throughout the day I grabbed them for a hug, or patted them on the back, or even just looked them straight in the eye and told them I loved them. After wiping hands, while setting the table, correcting a math problem, walking through a room, anytime I caught one of them, I took whatever opportunity I could and told them I loved them. It isn't that I didn't do this before, it's just that I tried last week to do it more-- a lot more.
I have been amazed at the results. No, this was not a magic solution to all my parenting dilemmas. I am still reminding them to make their beds. I still find clothes strewn on the bathroom floor. There are still bedtime blues, and bickering-- oh the bickering. The thing is, they smile at me. I see in their little faces how much they like hearing me tell them they mean the world to me. It makes telling them no a little easier. It makes asking them to do something extra a little easier. Their eyes have more sparkle and they seem happier.
The kids aren't the only ones who've benefited either. In fact, I think I have gained more from this little exercise. I am reminded of the blessings they bring even when I am asking for the fourth time for the same toy to be picked up off the floor. It also has, on occasion, reminded me to keep my sharp tongue in check. More importantly, those little smiles are like rays of sunshine during our hectic days. It warms my heart to see them so happy. Those three little words do more to bring them happiness than any toy, or candy, or privilege and I love bringing that joy to them.
I'd love to hear the results of your "I love you" experiments.