If you’ve got kids, I know you’re busy, and I don’t want to add one.more.thing to the long list of things you already do for them each day. However, this one simple thing that I do seemed to take on a life of its own and turned into something that not only improves my kids’ lives, but mine as well.
Every night when I tuck my kids in bed, I tell them ‘the wonderful things’ that I noticed them doing that day. It’s usually nothing big—it’s helping me take in the groceries or doing homework without being asked—what’s big is the message behind it; the message that I see them. I recognize what they’re doing, and I appreciate it.
When I started this a couple of years ago, I wasn’t expecting anything; I just wanted to make sure that I focused on the good things they were doing, because, ahem, I admit, that sometimes I was way too quick to notice the not-so-good things, and I didn’t want that to be the main source of attention they were receiving from me.
‘The wonderful things’ quickly became the highlight of our bedtime routine, but it wasn’t forgotten the next morning—they thought about it all day, and worked on ways to add to the list.
If you decide to do this, don’t be discouraged if you can’t find three wonderful things (I tried to go for just one wonderful thing, but they insist on three), and I’ll be honest; sometimes I can’t think of anything. Sometimes the day is so busy that I just haven’t had the time to notice specific behaviors.
If I can’t think of anything, I make it light and fun; I laugh about it or make up something silly. Or, I apologize for not noticing and ask them to tell me something wonderful that they did that day. The important thing is that there is dialogue around their achievements and that the focus is on the good stuff, not the bad.
If they’ve had a particularly hard day and the behavior has been, well…less than angelic…then we talk about how they handled it; we talk about how they let it go or if they learned anything from it. Sometimes the wonderful thing is that they are talking about it with me in that moment.
The most important thing is that you shift your focus away from the negative and place it on the positive, because whatever you focus on becomes bigger. And when you make it a point to talk about it, you’re holding yourself accountable for your awareness. The very best part is that your kids will take ownership of their behavior because they know that they’ll be recognized for it, and that is worth every second of one.more.thing to do for your kids.
PS: I wrote about ‘The Wonderful Things’ when I first came up with the idea a couple of years ago…if you’d like to read about it, you can check it out here.