Welcome to a series I call Raise Your Mom Game! This is where I share tips and tricks learned from other moms to support us in parenting. It’s not a quick fix, because none of us are broken. We just need a fresh perspective to the everyday struggles learned from the cool parents like you and I.
“Mum.” The baby coos to me from his highchair, arms flapping like a baby bird, mouth open like one too.
It’s his new favorite word.
No, I am not raising a little British baby.
“Mum” in his personal baby linguistics is a request for food, of any kind. Some cross between more, yum, and you better give me some of that food before I show you how loud I can scream.
But wouldn’t it be fun if I could convince him to call me “Mum?” I digress.
One of the reasons I have been so drawn to this age of a child is the fascinating look into language acquisition. In some fantastic miracle, little babies learn to take the sounds they hear and turn them into meaning. They develop the ability to form their lips and tongue together in just the right way to repeat those sounds back to you. And then they make sense of it all and start to use words. Real words.
It’s all so incredible.
And highlights even greater reason what this phrase means…
They matter to us as adults navigating the world and seeking better means of communication. But they matter very much to our children who are growing into our world. If our children learn to speak by listening to our words first, then the words we say to them became that much more important.
It only takes one moment of hearing your child utter a four letter word, and I don’t mean Elmo, to realize how very much these children are listening to us. Even when they are not listening to us.
Do we get it right every time? Absolutely not. I’ll be the first to say Amen to that. We’re human. We make mistakes. I make a lot of them.
But sometimes we do get it right. Sometimes we say the words they need to hear. The ones that matter.
I like to think those are the ones that stick.
So instead of focusing on all the wrong words I have used with my children, I want to make sure I give attention to the good ones.
Its from other moms that I have gathered the best words.
For this month’s Raise Your Mom Game series, I am sharing a few phrases I have heard from moms who influence me. Words heard in strong tones during playdates. Thoughtful suggestions repeated from experts. And words from my own mom that I can attest inform my decisions even today.
They are simple yet intentional, which any writer will tell you makes the greatest impact.
“God made you kind.”
We could hear the bickering beginning in the other room. A spat about a toy. Or a turn. Or whatever it is preschoolers and toddlers banter about. It didn’t take long before the two siblings wandered into the room where the moms were gathered whining about who did what to whom and who was right or wrong.
She interrupted them before either had made their point.
“God made you kind. Remember that.”
Defeated, realizing their mom had played her cards and the game was over, they wandered off resuming their play.
God made you kind.
I like that.
She didn’t reprimand with “Be good boys, now.” She didn’t threaten with “If you don’t stop fighting we are going home.” She didn’t even ask to hear the whole story and try to resolve who was actually at fault.
She simply reminded them that they are kind. The very core of their existence is kindness. And so she knew they could return back to that if they tried.
I found this to be such a powerful reminder for our children. They are not bad. They are not naughty.
They are kind, just the way God made them.
They just need reminders of how to be that.
It was a girls’ weekend getaway and we were debating the many ways we can cajole our children into good behavior. My how these get togethers have changed over the years. We getaway from our children and all we have to talk about is our children.
But best friends are there to walk you through all the messy parts of life, and children are the mayors of that life. Naturally we would turn to them for some help in this area.
She was telling me about a simple phrase she learned in a parenting class, one I hadn’t heard before. Whether you observe your child doing something positive or negative, instead of labeling it, tell them “I noticed.”
It’s like planting a little seed in their head, she said. Letting them know you are paying attention, but then leaving it up to them to discern whether or not that behavior was successful. It acts as a conversation starter.
I noticed you are throwing your toys.
I noticed you put your shoes away.
I noticed you are having trouble putting on your jacket.
With those two words you say a lot. I’m paying attention, not judging or shaming. I see when you do the things I ask. I observe your emotions.
I find this to be such a great way to invite our children to notice their own actions, too. We all need this reminder from time to time. Huh, I’m yelling a lot today. What exactly is going on? Maybe I need to drink a glass of water/go for a run/talk a nap.
Noticing together is a powerful tool.
“This is the day the Lord has made. We shall rejoice and be glad in it.”
I remember rolling my eyes every time my mom said this. It was one of many bible verses she would repeat to us. She was raised Baptist, which means compared to my Lutheran upbringing, quoting the Bible is what she was taught to do well.
There were others. But this one stands out. I could be wrong (and she will correct me if I am) but in hindsight I like to think this was my mom’s way of using a meditative mantra. She could scold us for being whiny. She could shame us into appreciating our privilege. She could have yelled like I do when I’m just so frustrated by all the ungrateful demands by little voices.
Or she could use a mantra in verse that reminds not just her children but herself how to be grateful. I can see her smile when she said this. It was often a forced smile. But you can’t be mad when you smile. It shifts the tone instantly. Who can argue with this verse? This day, in all its crazy starts, is a day made for us. We are lucky to be here. When the negativity starts to surface, it can be a helpful practice to take pause for gratitude.
We use words for ourselves as much as for our children. Words matter to them, but we need to listen too.
Perhaps this is why bible verses and other spiritual mantras are so valuable. They are easily written on our hearts to be accessed when we need them the most. When our own words might come out angry, misunderstood, regretful, peaceful mantras center us.
And they also stick with us.
I might have rolled my eyes (sorry about that mom) but I listened. Here I am, 37 years later, and I can still hear the words my mother shared. I still call on them when I need them most.
Thank you for these words, Mom. And thank you to all the moms, and mums, who share their best words. Our children are listening. But we are too.
I hope some of these mantras work for you.
Share what words you use with your children. Lets add more to the conversation!