There’s power in positivity. Its counterpart, negativity, is equally powerful. When we lean on God’s grace and choose to parent in a positive light, it transforms our kids and our relationship with them.
Have you ever been with a group of people, and there was one negative Nelly in the bunch who couldn’t manage to say one nice thing but complained about everything? I find in those moments that it brings down the whole spirit of the group. I experienced this not too long ago with my Airbnb listings. Recently, in a sea of positive reviews, I got a negative review. As soon as I read it, I felt down in the dumps. I couldn’t tell you what the hundreds of positive reviews said, but I can still remember what that negative review said. Amazing, isn’t it, how much negativity can dampen the spirit. Our words, our tone, our reactions can be powerful, depending on the road we choose.
A few years ago, I had a parenting epiphany, a God moment, where it seemed my eyes were opened to my interactions with my kids.
I have two teenagers. If you have teenagers, then you know that you never know what you’re going to get. Their moods change with the wind. When my teenagers exhibited negative emotions, I found myself responding back with the same…frustration, anger, harsh tones. The worst was when I picked them up from school. We were living in South Africa at the time. School started at 7:30 am. To get there on time, we had to leave our house at 6:45. Most days they had sport and didn’t finish until 5 pm, meaning they got home about 5:30. Needless to say, it was a long day. Also, needless to say, when I picked them up, they were oozing with negative emotions. They were tired. They were hangry. They were not up for conversation. When I asked them how their day was, they typically didn’t reply or said, “Stop talking!” That launched me into a diatribe on how they needed to respect adults and telling them to stop talking was total disrespect. This only exacerbated the situation.
My epiphany came when my eyes were opened to see the bigger picture of the situation. I then decided to change my question and not react negatively no matter the answer. I started asking, “What was the best part of your day today?” Sometimes they answered. Sometimes they didn’t. I’ll never forget the day I asked this, and my daughter said the famous, “Stop talking!” So I did. We drove in silence for about 5 minutes until she launched into a whole speech about the details of her day. I listened with a smile on my face, and when she finished, I continued to sit in silence. Thirty seconds later, she said, “Well, aren’t you going to say anything?” I busted out laughing and said, “I’m so confused right now. Do you want me to talk or not?” We both started laughing, and I realized there was power in a positive response. The moment went from tense to an unexplained lightness in an instant.
Over my parenting journey, I’ve seen the power of positive parenting through gracious words, delighted reactions, and an upbeat tone.
The power of positive words.
I recently heard someone talk about the power of positive words in relation to kid’s school grades. When our children bring home a report card full of A’s and one C, we tend to look at the C and focus on that so that they can get that grade up. What if we spent more time praising and congratulating the A’s? Would it give them the confidence and security to bring that C grade up? I’m not saying we don’t address bad grades. I’m just saying that no matter the situation, I believe there’s power in our words when we spend more time focusing on the positive and highlighting what they’re doing well rather than giving more attention to the negative.
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24
The power of positive reactions.
If you have small children, you might experience this. If your children are grown, I’m sure you remember the days of your kids getting out of bed multiple times a night. It’s easy to have patience the first couple of times, but by the tenth time, it’s typical to be at your wit’s end. We struggled with this with our daughter when she was a toddler. Then she grew out of it. In her pre-teen years, she started coming up to my room after I’d already gotten in bed after I’d already told her goodnight. Somewhere along the way, I realized that, upon entering my room, I had reverted to the same negative impatience I did when she was a toddler getting up for the 7th time. I was tired and ready to sleep after a long day, but she wasn’t a toddler anymore. She didn’t need me to get her a drink of water. She just wanted to connect before she went to bed. My reaction to her coming to my room needed an overhaul, so I purposely turned that negativity into delight at seeing her enter my room like it was the highlight of my day. This year she’s turning 16, and she still comes into my room after I’ve crawled into bed. I make sure I don’t fall asleep before this little ritual, because it’s honestly become one of my favorite parts of my day. We connect in such fun ways every night!
When you’re kind to others, you help yourself; when you’re cruel to others, you hurt yourself. Proverbs 11:17
The power of a positive tone.
Tone is everything, isn’t it? Our words can say one thing, but if our tone doesn’t match them, then it’s not very believable. In other words, tone is where it’s at. The pitch, the demeanor, it communicates a lot. They say that 93% of all communication is non-verbal. Tone falls into the non-verbal category along with facial expressions and postures. When we combine positive words with a positive tone, it communicates powerfully that our kids are loved and valued.
Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. Proverbs 18:20, 21