As my mom will attest, after hearing the stories now that we’re older, parents don’t always catch every bad thing you do.
But, we sure try. Don’t we?
Here is a secret and maybe it isn’t my finest parenting hour to admit this... I have managed to complete convince my children that moms develop eyes in the back of their head. It’s how I know when they’re messing around when they shouldn’t be. Dads? They have a magical parenting power too… super hearing. Dave knows when it’s quiet… too quiet, it’s time to go searching for the reason.
As parents, we develop these sixth senses for catching our kids doing all of the things they aren’t supposed to do. That is our job, right?
We give a warning with that tone. We use their full names. We ask them to consider whether they are doing what they should be doing. We set limits, we catch them crossing, and put them on the right path, until they learn to do these things for themselves.
Yesterday, Finn was frustrated, tired, and just having a tough day. Tate was on task, being a great listener, and having a great day. The difference was unmistakable. I should also say, there are many, many days when this is the exact opposite in our house. But yesterday, I found myself gravitating toward reminding him about his attitude and making sure he completed what he needed to do and it felt remarkably worse to him because there she was, doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing, without argument, smiling even.
I put Tate in the tub and she said something about Finn not being a good listener but, she was and it gave me pause because that isn’t the message I wanted to send. Instead, I said loud enough for Finn to overhear, that we all have good days and bad days. I said, there were lots of days that he was a great listener and that after a good night’s rest, is a great time to begin again with a fresh attitude. Then, I told her that even though I was busy, I really noticed how much effort she had put into cleaning up her room and what a good listener she had been with her dad. I promised I’d put a fresh coat of paint on her fingernails, something that is a huge treat for her, after she put her pajamas on because she had worked so hard.
Not only did that simple little thing make her light up, but when I went to tuck Finn in for bed, he had done his stuff too. My nagging for half an hour hadn’t remedied the bad attitude and mess that needed picked up, but overhearing our two minute conversation had. I gave him a squeeze and told him that I really appreciated that he did those things and that I understood how hard sometimes it is, to turn your day around, but that you always can.
I kind of feel that way about parenting too. My friend Kristina, who has more grace and patience in her pinky than I have in all of me, reminds me constantly that even good parents, have bad days. It’s not about what you’ve screwed up, it’s about making the choice to do it differently next time. We’ve been doing a good job of catching the bad because we recognize the need to correct it immediately. Making an effort to catch the good takes some thought, we have to be conscious and mindful of it. For me, and maybe for other parents too, it doesn’t come nearly as easily, but it’s something that I absolutely think is worth it.
I’d love any tips on how you catch the good in your own kids.