One night after dinner, my kids cleared the table, got in pajamas, brushed their teeth, and started playing together peacefully, all without being told. ONE night. I wish that would happen more often because that’s when I feel like I’m on top of this mom thing. Other times, signs saying “Abby, you’re a great mom” are a little more subtle or nonexistent.
But there are things our kids say that—although they don’t scream “You’re a great mom!”—actually do give us tiny hints that they’re growing into decent human beings. Here are 8 to keep an ear out for and then breathe a sigh of relief. You’re doing it, Mom! You’re actually doing it!
1. “That’s not fair.”
My ninth-grade economics teacher had a sign in his classroom that said, “Life’s not fair. If it were, it would be boring.” He also made us sit in a cardboard box if we got the worst grade on a test, so I’m not taking parenting cues from him. But his poster was right. If you teach your kids that they might not always get what they think they’ve earned or deserve, you’re setting them up for a healthier, more resilient adulthood.
If you teach your kids that they might not always get what they think they’ve earned or deserve, you’re setting them up for a healthier, more resilient adulthood.
2. “I forgive you.”
If your child says these three words, it’s a sign you’re a great mom because it means you’ve apologized. Not only is it an act of love to admit when we’ve made a mistake, but apologizing to our kids models behavior we want them to exhibit.
3. “I messed up.”
My biggest flaw as a mom is controlling my anger. I’ve worked on it over the years, but I’m sure I’ve already done irreparable damage. One thing that motivates me to stay calm is that I don’t ever want my kids to be afraid to come talk to me. If your children tell you they messed up, it means they aren’t afraid of you and they know you will listen and help.
4. “I didn’t know that.”
My second biggest flaw as a mom (and in general) is pride. I don’t like admitting when I don’t know something. In fact, it’s caused more than one fight between my husband and me. When our kids say, “I didn’t know that” or “I don’t know,” it shows that you’re raising people who aren’t too proud to admit they have something to learn.
5. “My dream is to…”
You’re a great mom if your children are setting goals—even small goals. It means they have a growth mindset and confidence. And bonus: They trust you enough to share their heart’s desire with you, knowing you’ll be there to cheer them on.
6. “Everyone else is allowed to.”
You really are crushing this whole mom thing if you are “the mean mom” because your kids have a curfew, can’t have a phone yet, or fill in the blank with that thing that your kids are 100 percent sure every other kid they know is allowed to do. On the surface, rules and boundaries feel like restrictions to kids, but underneath, they actually communicate love.
7. “I feel bad.”
We’ve all had to force our kids to say they’re sorry when we know they feel no remorse. The day they say it and mean it is worth celebrating. It means they’re learning empathy, understanding right and wrong, and admitting they’ve hurt someone. In other words, they are becoming good human beings.
8. “I’m ready to try again.”
Whether it’s getting back on the bike after falling, trying another math problem after bombing a quiz, or putting cleats back on after a knee injury on the soccer field, when your child says he or she is ready to get back in the game, it’s a sign you’re teaching resilience, determination, and bravery.
What have your kids said or done that has made you feel like you’re a great mom?