We think love is big things. We buy our kids whatever they need and more. We make all their wishes come true. We do stuff for them around the house so they don’t have to. We put them in the ‘best’ schools. We try to eliminate hardships from their lives. We do so so much for them that we can sometimes miss the small stuff.
The small stuff is what kids notice and feel. It’s the small stuff that they take cues from.
4yo Sami wants to help mama and eagerly says “I want to help you in the kitchen!” Mama feels irritated that he wants to “help” but also feels like a “bad mom” for declining his help so she forces herself to say, “Ok fine but please don’t touch the spoon in the pot.. and don’t knock anything over. Be careful.”
He didn’t miss the look of irritation that crossed her face as he asked her the question. He didn’t miss the trepidation in her voice as she dished out the “don’t” list.
What overall message do you think he got about his own worthiness from this incident?
Perhaps something along the lines of “I’m a nuisance and my mom forces herself to let me help but doesn’t actually need or want my help.”
Now imagine this idea being reinforced daily, several times.
Here’s another scenario.
6yo Sarah is using her dad’s pen. She even asked his permission before she borrowed it. As she’s trying to press the button that pushes the nib out.. the pen breaks. She’s horrified and says to baba, “Sorry baba!”
Baba snatches the broken pen and says, “What do I do with your sorry! You broke my pen! Never touch my things again!”
What lesson do you think she just learned about saying sorry?
Here are some other minor scenarios where we can be a little more mindful and they go a long way towards making children feel heard and seen.
1- When a child tries to do something we think is too hard for them and we go ahead and say it out aloud, “That’s too hard for you!” “Here let me do that for you!” “You’re too little for this.”
Instead- let them try. Let them do it. If they get stuck, they’ll ask for help. Waiting until they ask for help is life changing for children. Adults are always assuming that kids need help- ask first!
2- As soon as a child enters the room, our eyes need to light up and we aim to greet them with love instead of, “What’s wrong with your hair?” “Why are your clothes dirty?” “Did you do your homework?” “Finally I see your face!” “Finally done with video games?”
Instead, try “I’m so happy to see you!” “I love your face!” “Ap ko dekh kai mujhay itni khushi hoti hai!”
3- A child shares something and we instantly start asking questions. Try instead, to pause and keep listening. Say less. Hear more. Resist the urge to formulate the “correct” comment. Just listen. Nod and smile and watch them open up more.
Brené Brown says when she interviewed people for her research and asked them what they treasure most about their lives- they say unanimously... the small things. Those little pocket of moments when their loved ones held out their arms, said something kind, did something thoughtful, listened without judgement and played with abandon.
It’s rarely our big gestures of generosity that kids notice. Instead, it’s the small stuff that adds up. Day In and day out... what’s your small stuff adding up to?
Disclaimer: There are always times when we will do these things.. that’s ok! We just want to start being mindful as often as possible.