Don’t Be Their Negative Voice

I’m really into giving myself a break lately. This morning there were no clean clothes. Pretty much none. Laundry has not been a priority lately as I’ve thrown myself into several home projects. I redecorated my writing space/office/junk room/guest room from a dungeon of despair into something beautiful and I rewired the lights in my kitchen because, according to YouTube, I am an electrician.

So when everyone was naked and frustrated this morning, I thought, Drops of Awesome. It’s been so long since everyone was naked and frustrated in the morning due to a laundry shortage. I’ve been getting much better at this domesticality thing. I am awesome.

They just sighed and lived. It’s true. All survived. Magoo wore soccer socks. Laylee searched for half an hour and found some cleanish pants and Dan just loved me anyway.

It’s kind of amazing. I could easily have let the experience ruin my entire day or week as I beat myself up, but I didn’t. I don’t like to listen to those voices anymore, the ones that tell me I’m a failure. They’re not productive. And they are jerks.

Here’s the problem. I may not listen to those voices in my own head but it doesn’t mean I don’t dish them out on my husband and kids.

A couple of nights ago, I was going over homework with Laylee. It was sloppy. It wasn’t her best effort. She could do so much more. I was being kind and constructive. I was trying to help her improve by pointing out every little imperfection. Halfway through the session, she got tearful and angry.

“Tell me what’s wrong, honey,” I prompted her.

She couldn’t talk. She was too upset. I told her to breathe and get back to me when she was ready. Half an hour passed and she tearfully and sincerely told me, “You are disappointed in everything I do.” She proceeded to list everything she felt she was doing to disappoint me and my heart broke a little. Tears came to my eyes.

I am not disappointed in this little girl. I am, in fact, in awe of her. So I feel like it’s my job to push her to fulfill her potential. And looking into her vulnerable, tearful face, I felt devastated. I’m not a John Gottman groupie, but I do believe in ratios, and as I thought about it, I really couldn’t think of many ways I’d built her up in the past couple of months. I would give myself at least a 5:1 negative to positive interaction ratio.

“You got ninety on this test. What happened here?” (pointing to the missed question)

“Were you paying attention?”

“This isn’t your best work.”

“Why is the milk out?”

“Whose shoes are these and why are they in the living room?”

“I’ve asked five times. Seriously. Set the table. How hard is this?”

“Your teacher says you’re reading when you’re supposed to be doing math.”

“You know better than that.”

“Oh, and I love you. Have a great day.”

“Why didn’t you brush your hair?”

I imagine that my kids’ negative inner voices sound a lot like me, nagging them.

I hugged Laylee. I apologized. I told her that if she thought I was disappointed in her, then I was not doing my job as a mother. Then I told her all the ways I was proud of her.

This was a Drop of Awesome. Just a drop. I can do more and I will. In that moment, that was the drop I could give. But, in that moment, I also decided that the next time I had the choice to correct her for something that did not matter, I’d hug her instead and offer to help.

So, the rest of the whole wide afternoon, I was not a nag. I was an encourager. I am an encourager. That’s who I am now. It’s on my radar. Am I perfect at it yet? Heck-to-the-ask-my-kids-NO.

Having a negative inner voice is super destructive. Having a negative outer voice, that’s embodied by your mom, who’s supposed to love you no matter what? Probably not helpful either.

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13 Responses to Don’t Be Their Negative Voice

  1. Mari says:

    Thank you for your words of wisdom today. I am still working on and occasionally failing miserably in this area. I remember reading Jeffrey R Holland’s talk “Tongue of Angels” and it’s still one of the talks I read most often to remind me and keep me on track.

  2. Heffalump says:

    You are really good at writing just what I need to read my friend! If I can just get myself to shut up, my kids will thank you for this post!

  3. Mir says:

    Love this. Thank you.

  4. julia says:

    Thank you. You expressed exactly what I am feeling today.

  5. Emily G says:

    I loved your words of wisdom because I’m the Nag-in-Chief around this house too. But to be honest I am also little distracted by the awesomeness that is the sentence, “I rewired the lights in my kitchen because, according to YouTube, I am an electrician.” I am even laughing again as I retype it. Thank you so very much!

  6. Josie says:

    You are so profound.

  7. Anon says:

    Yes! My mom was like this my whole life and now that I’m an adult and tell her that I always felt like a huge disappointment to her, all growing up- she is incredulous! “How can that be?” she thinks to herself as she reassures me that she has always been proud of me. “Because you never praised me! You only ever told me “not good enough!” You think I ever could trust a single compliment that came my way? Can I now? No! Too much damage has already been done and I honestly don’t believe in myself enough to do anything that is hard. I always come up with an excuse. Before I get anywhere. Your mom’s critical voice becomes your own inner voice and if always negative, then guess who will accomplish nothing in their life? Thanks mom.

    (Sorry to vomit this all over you, I’m just being honest and helping to validate your point.)

    • Dottie says:

      Dear Anon,
      Many years ago I was quite critical of my mother and thought I should have had more love and affection in my life so it would have been easier to pass those actions on to my children. However, as the years go by (I am now a great grandmother) I realize that my mother was the product of her upbringing and I have the ability to change my thoughts and behaviors toward my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I also recognize that she had all she could do as a single mother with two children just to work & keep food on the table for us. As I made the effort to show love, hugs etc to my mom, she opened up and responded to my overtures. I am thankful to be able to say that we had a wonderful relationship before she died. I hope you will someday be able to say the same about you and your mother. I wasn’t perfect but I did the best I could to show love to my children and I know my mother did also. I try to follow Jesus and his example. I also took classes and read many positive books on love and relationships in the family to help myself become the person I wanted to be. I continue to learn every day.

  8. Paula says:

    Thank you! You keep me striving to be a better mom!

  9. Lissy says:

    Awesome post! Very well put – thank you!! :)

  10. Sandy says:

    I just found your blog today and I’ve only read a few (so far) and I’ve LOVED them. It seems to be what I need to read so thank you for being honest because it’s what I struggle with all the time. It gives me help to change myself into a better person. Drop of Awesome!! Thanks!!

  11. Rachel J. says:

    I love your blog. Thought I’d pass this on since it helped me so much to think about “potential” and encouraging my kids to reach it. http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com/2012/08/22/how-to-teach-your-kids-to-find-a-passion/

  12. Reading this article brought tears. I realized how hard I am on my daughter sometimes, and wish I could stop doing that forever. I’ve made that resolution countless times, and I will keep trying to make good on it. Your story is a reminder to me and all moms to go easy on our little girls, that it’s more important to teach them self-love & self-acceptance than to be perfect. Thanks for sharing this experience.

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