Editor's note: This article was originally published on Aly Brooks' blog,
It has been republished here with permission.
What do you want to accomplish as a mother? What is your number one priority? At the end of your life, when you're sitting in your rocking chair, what do you want to look back on and feel good about? For me, the answers to those questions are that I want to know that I made my kids feel loved. Whenever the thought of their mother (me) pops into their head, I want them to think, "love" (not "crazy bossy lady"). Ha.
Celebrate with them
The other day my fourth grader had to give an oral presentation at school. She was petrified, her last experience had not gone well. We practiced and I encouraged her. The day of her presentation, she came home from school and told me that she "just kept talking and talking" and that her teacher didn't have to ask her any questions at all (which I guess is a big deal). I literally dropped what was in my hands grabbed her, sang "We are the Champions" at the top of my lungs while I twirled her around. Yeah, I might be a little dramatic, but her eyes lit up like she was at Disneyland. My making a crazy, big deal about it made her feel even more proud of her accomplishment. And even more importantly, made her feel LOVED!
Have special rituals just between the two of you
It's the little things they will remember. Simple moments will stand out in their minds as they grow older. They will probably never think to themselves, "My mom could do a mean load of laundry!" No. Your son probably won't think back and recall your ability to get dinner on the table at 6 p.m. every night. But they will remember the tickle torture sessions, the secret handshakes, the inside jokes. They will remember the little things you did just for them, and them alone. They will remember the time you spend kneeling by their bed every night and talking about their crush at school. If you have multiple children, it's really difficult to remember to parent the individual child. It's like I always say, "There are just so many of them!" But it's important to have that little special something between just the two of you.
Treat them like they are amazing
"Treat people as if they are what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming." -Johan Wolfgang Von Gothe
I try to remind myself of this multiple times a day. Think about it ... when you do something and someone tells you it's amazing, does it make you want to do it again? Yes! Not only is this great advice for making your kids feel loved, it's also an amazing behavior modification tool. I have seen this work in my own life. My husband is extremely complimentary of me. Whenever I do anything he can't stop talking about how amazing I am, how impressed he is, on and on and on. (I'm a lucky girl!) But do you think that makes me want to do a crappy job the next time? No way! I want to do an even better job the next time. It makes me want to impress him even more! In my studies in Human Development, I learned this but it really hit home when I noticed how my husband's praise was shaping my behavior. I started doing it with my kids and it has made an incredible difference!
Focus on the positive
You can choose to either focus on what your kids do wrong, or you can focus on what they do right! The choice is yours. Let that sink in for a sec. You don't have to let things they do irritate you so much. When you feel like you want to get bugged, think something nice about them, and then say it out loud! I'm not going to lie, this is really hard to do at bedtime. But seriously, what about ignoring the negative behavior (when it's safe to do so) once in a while and focus instead on the positive? Build them up! There are enough forces in the world tearing them down, you don't need to be one of them. YOU can be the one they can always count on to love them.
Make yourself available
I've heard it said that children spell love T-I-M-E. We are all busy. There is always something that needs to be done. Am I right? We know that spending time with our kids is important but at times it can feel impossible. But when you feel this way think about you, old, kids grown with families of their own, sitting there, thinking back. I don't know about you, but I don't want to slap myself in the forehead thinking about all the time I wasted doing things that didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Believe me, I am a "gotta get stuff done" kind of girl, but I have to check myself and ask myself if what I think really matters ... well ... really matters. And remember, sometimes just five minutes of your time can make all the difference.