When enforcing a rule or a boundary it is easy to get stuck in angry mama mode and only tell him what he can’t do or what he’s doing wrong.
It is important that I not limit my words to the negative. Especially since I’m not generally overly talkative with my kidlets it’s important that when I do talk they are hearing loving things along with the instruction and correction.
When I tell him not to do something I try to tell him that I love him or give him some reason to believe the kind intentions of my heart.
At this point his understanding of abstract ideas is a bit limited. 18 month olds don’t really have the concept of ‘later’ down too well. But
I also want to do my best to express to him that he is good and it is only his actions that are bad.
I want to affirm his personhood. I want to let him be himself while still providing the structure that produces character.
I want him to know it’s ok to like different things, to be good at different things and to make different decisions.
I want to teach him how to choose his own reactions and actions.
I want to remind him of his potential and ability to obey without getting caught up in the shame of not doing that one thing right (being perfect!).
Kristen Howerton, the blogger behind Rage Against the Minivan, in a post for Patheos blog puts it this way:
The great thing is, we have found that this more affirming phrase actually results in better behavior from our children. They feel less shame. And they want to live up to the better person that we imagine them to be. This small change in phrasing has been hugely helpful for us as a family
“You’re better than that.”
I know that at this point my little guy’s ability to comprehend complex ideas like this is not quite there yet, but I need to remember the power my words have to shape his life and mental and emotional well-being. As my littles get older I’m going to be on the lookout for ways to verbally affirm and inspire them to better behavior.
Maybe we’ll even find a phrase we use often to help them reach for greater things.
For now for me this looks like being a better steward with the gift of language in regards to my littles.
What about you?
Do you have a phrase you say to your kiddos to push them toward positive change?