Lots of things bring me to a pretty high level of joy: a great meal (preferably one someone else made!), the perfect cup of coffee, and meeting a deadline at work. But only a few things bring me to the very top level of joy. Of them, there’s one we probably have in common—my children.
Take it from someone who has an empty nest, now that my five little birds have flown away. Grab hold of what brings you joy: your kids. Scoop those children up when you can. Love on them. Be there for them when they need you. Give them your full attention. Hold your tongue when you want to give them advice if at this moment they aren’t open to hearing it. Be a great mom to them. Here’s how.
1. Be available.
Your children need to know you are there for them when they need you. This doesn’t mean you schedule your life according to your child’s whims. It is not healthy for a child to think the universe revolves around him or her. Availability means you are open and you give yourself willingly, without regret. If you have a busy schedule, make it a priority to carve out time to give each child focused attention.
2. Be lavish with love and forgiveness.
Assure your children that they are loved and accepted even when they fail. Never withhold physical contact or eye contact, even when they make mistakes or disappoint you. Make sure they know that although you disapprove of their attitudes or actions, your love is unconditional. Hug, hold, and touch your children in loving ways every day. Look into their eyes regularly and tell them how much you love them. (You can also take the Love Your Child Challenge.)
3. Be generous with praise.
Children never outgrow their need for heavy doses of praise—no matter their age. The five-to-one praise principle is a good rule of thumb to follow. Balance every negative comment you make with five positive comments. Think before you speak. Ask yourself if what you want to say will build up or tear down your child. Each day, look for ways to affirm your child’s unique giftedness and personality. Encourage the rest of the family to do the same with each other. (Try these Phrases for Praises!)
4. Be fair.
We all subscribe to the fact that people are different—in theory. But when we have to live with the peculiarities of the people in our home, the standard operating procedure seems to be to “fix and repair” rather than “accept and affirm.” Our children will do some things that annoy us and, sometimes, they will blatantly disobey us. But before we respond, we should stop and ask, “Is this my child’s problem or mine?” Is there really a “perfect” way to take out the garbage, clean a room, or get homework done? Is there something inherently wrong with what my child is doing or is he or she just not doing it my way?”
5. Be fun.
Strange as it seems, having fun with your children has a great deal to do with how they respond to your firmness. The moments you spend laughing, playing, and enjoying life together make large deposits in your children’s emotional bank account. You’ve expressed your love and commitment to them in tangible ways. So when the time comes for you to be firm and enforce discipline, they’re able to recognize that it’s motivated by your concern for them.
I’ve met many parents who allow busy schedules and the stresses of life to crowd out any time to have fun. The results are not pretty. They feel guilty for not playing with and relishing their kids so they rationalize their feelings by saying they choose “quality time” over “quantity time.” They tuck in moments with their children between meetings, appointments, or other “important” work. But their kids can tell that they’re not enjoying spending time with them because their minds are somewhere else.
Other parents are with their children but not really with them. Sitting in front of the TV together or working in front of a computer with the child nearby isn’t making a substantial emotional investment. When it comes to parenting, quality time and quantity of time are like the oxygen your kids breathe. Although the quality of the oxygen is important, the quantity determines whether or not they thrive.
When it comes to parenting, quality time and quantity of time are like the oxygen your kids breathe.
6. Be Authentic.
Because our children don’t come with handling instructions, every parent makes mistakes. As you try to customize your parenting for each child, remember that your children don’t need an expert; they need a guide. When you blow it, just admit it. Learn from it, then get up, and go on. Far from undermining your position, this humility will say to the child in the most powerful way, “I am really for you. I am not trying to make you something you are not. I love you and I am on your team.” (Here’s how to be a mom who’s worthy of imitation.)
7. Be Willing to Ask for Help.
If you face a more serious or ongoing issue with a child, turning to a pastor or counselor isn’t a sign of weakness. It actually shows great courage and might be the most loving thing you can do for your child.
What’s your number one rule for being a great mom?
Taken with permission from The Busy Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Organized Home by Kathy Peel.