My two daughters love to receive positive reinforcement and encouragement. Whenever they accomplish something, whether it is big or small, they look at us with their wide eyes as big as saucers, ready for us to clap our hands and sing their praises.
Recently my youngest daughter Georgia learned how to put her shoes on by herself, with a big grin she would exclaim, “Mommy I did it!” We would both clap our hands and do a happy dance, despite the fact that her shoes were on backwards and it took her seven tries. Likewise, when my oldest daughter learned to use the potty we did a lot of happy dancing and cheering.
Our home is full of a lot of joyful noise and cheering, celebrating the big and small milestones. Sometimes we cheer for a child who eats all their dinner, or shares, or reads a book. I have seen the positive impact of positive reinforcement in my home, and I am genuinely proud of the people my children are becoming. I never want a day to go by where they don’t know that I am proud of them.
Recently, someone observed that our children are mirror reflections of ourselves, and sometimes what we provide for our children is what we crave for ourselves.
At first I wasn’t quite getting what they were saying, until they spelled it out for me.
“Brianna, maybe you need to know that you’re doing a good job too. Maybe you need to give that same positive reinforcement that you give your daughters to yourself.”
Oh, I see. Now I understood and I have to say, I agreed. I do want to be appreciated and noticed for my hard work. I’ve heard more than once that motherhood is a thankless job. Children don’t go around doling out encouraging words to their mothers, and most of motherhood is done behind closed doors.
There is no motherhood cheering squad.
But sometimes when we want and crave something so badly, we need to be that person to ourselves.
First, I started by writing out some encouraging words for myself, and putting the up around my house. In the kitchen, I posted, “You can do small things with great love.” This quote, from Mother Theresa, makes me smile as I cut up apples for my children, or wipe down messy counters. I am making a difference, even in those quiet moments that nobody sees.
In my china cabinet, I have: “You are a great mom, making a great difference.” I smile at this, while I take out tea cups to have a tea party with my oldest daughter.
Next to my TV I have, “You are allowed to rest, don’t feel guilty.” I feel encouraged by this as I turn on the TV for the fourth time in the day, because I know that I need the break, and my children will be fine with some extra television.
I’ve also started speaking about my accomplishments to my children.
“Mommy had an essay published in a book, let’s all do a dance because that’s so exciting!” I say with a big smile.
“Yay Mommy! Good for you!” My kids jump up and dance.
Even for the small accomplishments, like a clean kitchen, I’ll say, “I just cleaned the kitchen so nicely, I’m so proud of myself.”
At first it seemed strange. I learned in Sunday school to have a humble heart, to do things without expectation of a thank you, to be selfless and controlled. But I’m starting to learn that never hearing “good job” is really dampening to my spirit. I’m not selfish for wanting praise, just like my sweet children are perfectly entitled to wanting praise themselves.
Give yourself permission today to be praised and encouraged, even if it means you need to do the work yourself. You are doing a good job, repeat that to yourself until you believe it, and watch as your heart feels lighter and your desire to continue doing well increases.