We have just rung in the new year and lots of people are focused on resolutions and intentions for 2023. This is all wonderful but I thought I’d share something that I’ve been noticing with my son…he appreciates being appreciated. Don’t we all? While expressing gratitude is usually a November topic, let’s shake things up here and do something crazy and talk about it in January. :-)
As someone who does a ton for the other people in my life, it feels good to have someone say, “Thank you for doing x!” Because I notice the difference in how it feels in being appreciated, I’ve been trying to make a point to express my genuine gratitude for my son doing things even if it is something that he was asked to do. (Genuine gratitude is important as sarcastic gratitude defeats the purpose. Our children know and feel the difference.)
I express gratitude when he brings up his laundry basket and places it just inside of the laundry room. “Thanks for bringing your laundry basket up! That is a huge help.”
I express gratitude when he puts his plate in the sink. “Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for putting your dish is in the sink and not leaving it on the counter. That is so helpful!!”
I express gratitude when he closes the garage door after his bike ride. “Hey, you closed the garage door after your bike ride! That is so awesome and helps to make sure that your bike doesn’t get stolen. That would be so disappointing!”
Why do I do this? I do it because I think oftentimes the focus can be on what is not done and over time, that becomes frustrating.
“Why didn’t you just put your laundry basket all of the way in the laundry room. It was literally four more steps.”
“The dishwasher had space. I’m not sure why you didn’t just put your dishes in there instead of putting them in the sink.”
**I could say nothing about closing the garage door and not draw attention to something he did that was really important.
Add on developmental, physical or executive functioning challenges and one can take on a “why bother” attitude. (Note - this isn’t just our children! It is our partners and caregiving team as well who can take on this attitude of “If I can’t do it like he/she/they want, why bother?!”) I don’t want that. I want to encourage him to do what he can and to let him know that I notice what he is doing because it probably took him a lot of mental energy to remember to do the thing in the first place.
(Next month’s tip will be an extension of this topic for both parents, caregivers and children.)
This doesn’t mean that I don’t support him in growing towards the next step of the task he has done but my energy around it is totally different. It is not an energy of annoyance, it is one of gratitude that he did something at all and from there I can say something like,
“Thank you so much for bringing your laundry to the laundry room! It is so helpful to have it there and maybe next time if the washer is empty, you can put your clothes in there and start it. Do you remember how to do this or do you want me to show you? You can also let me know and I will help you. I bet it felt really good to get all of those dirty clothes and towels out of your bedroom.”
He usually says something like, “Thanks!” and maybe, “There are always things in the washer and it’s really frustrating to have mom’s stuff in there when I try to do my laundry.” (Keeping things real here!)
I could be annoyed that he said something like this but it probably is frustrating for him since there usually are clothes or towels of ours in there so I agree and reiterated that I’m just so happy that he brought them up and will do what I can to help him in the future.
Shifting the focus from what our children aren’t doing or what they aren’t able to do yet to expressing gratitude for what they do feels better for all involved as far as I’m concerned. It also can create an energy of willingness to do things because like I said earlier, it just feels good to be appreciated for what one does…no matter how big or small it may be. Try it or keep doing it and notice the difference it makes in your everyday life.