Mother’s Day this month means mommies will hopefully get lots of kisses, cards, and maybe even breakfast in bed — which can be lovely. It’s great for moms to get appreciation for all the things they contribute to keep the family functioning. But besides making lunches, helping with school projects, and doing their share of the laundry, there are many intangible gifts moms give their children. Here are just a few.
• Confidence. When you attend an end-of-year concert at school, cheer at a soccer game, or praise a picture your child drew, you are demonstrating that you appreciate your child’s efforts. Your positive reinforcement gives him the confidence to take on the world.
• The right to be wrong. Children who feel pressure to please their parents with perfect performance and only the highest grades may shy away from challenges that could help them grow. Teach your children to try their best, but also to never to be afraid to stumble. No one is perfect. Be willing to acknowledge your own mistakes. This sends the powerful message that the key to reaching important goals is to accept that we sometimes need improvement and should keep trying.
• Problem-solving skills. Sometimes we are so busy telling our children what they need to do and how they should do it, we forget to listen to their ideas. When you ask your children for strategies to solve family issues, you teach them to think creatively. It could be something as simple as asking for their input on how to put the laundry away, how to carry in the groceries, or how to get organized in the morning. You might be surprised at how creative they can be. Be sure to seek their opinion on how to solve bigger issues, as well.
• Curiosity. You don’t have to have all the answers. Sometimes, having the questions is far more important. You demonstrate that when, as you go about your day, you ask aloud questions like, “I wonder how they do that?” or, “What would happen if…?” Observing the world and evaluating how things work are important life skills. Once your child starts to question things, take advantage of the library or internet to help your child discover answers.
• Laughter. The connection we create when we laugh with our children is beyond measure. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body, strengthening your immune system, boosting energy, and reducing stress. Allow yourself to be silly. Always be willing to find the lighter side of life. Create inside jokes you share with your child. Try to find the humor in even stressful situations. Whether it is a giggle or a guffaw, when you share laughter with your child, it creates intimacy and fun.
• Patience. Children have a way of getting on our last nerve. How we respond teaches them a lot about how to deal with stressful situations in their own lives — now and in the future. When you feel like you are ready to blow, walk away. Tell your child, “I need a minute.” This models self-control, sets up healthy boundaries, and teaches your child that there’s no payoff in pushing your buttons.
Now take some deep breaths. No one is perfect, but on this long road that is parenthood, we should seek moments of inner peace. Besides, our kids are watching.
KiKi Bochi is a freelance writer and editor who keeps all the Mother’s Day cards she has received tucked in a drawer.