There are some parenting situations where I wonder if I’m making the right decision. You know that old saying, “choose your battles”? Sometimes I think, why get all worked up about this? It’s not that important. and I’ll drop it. But there are other times when I stick to my guns and even though I’m second-guessing myself inside, when I follow through, I am pleased with the results – and my kids learn something.
Case in point: We had A’s friend birthday party this past weekend. I had the thank you cards ready to go. I wanted her to write them out herself. Why?
1. I didn’t have time at that particular moment to do it myself (enter a little bit of guilt).
2. I want her to learn from it: that it’s important to officially thank people (especially via cards in this electronic society – it’s almost becoming a lost art – one that I haven’t taken the time to teach her in the past); also the discipline of having a project and seeing it through to completion.
So I wondered, how can I make this as easy as possible for her, while still giving her ownership over it?
Here’s what I came up with:
I wrote out a script of sorts. On paper it looked like this:
Thank you for coming to my party!
I really liked the _____.
Then below that, I wrote out each attendee’s name and what they gifted her. Most gave her more than one thing, so I wrote out each item, with a line in between each girl/gift to form rows. I explained to her where to write each girl’s name, and how to write in the gifts in the “I really liked the ___” area. I told her, “You don’t have to write EVERY thing they gave you – you can choose one or two items and thank them for the ones that were your favorite. Then, check their name off the list so you know you did that person already.”
This worked out so much better than I had hoped. What started out as a time saver/discipline activity ended up being a confidence booster, learning opportunity, and very valuable life skill.
She did the thank you cards in two batches. She carefully chose which gift(s) to thank her guests for, occasionally asking me what the words said. This also served to remind her who gave her each gift. By the last few cards, she was writing some of the words herself, without looking back at the script. She’d come to me and excitedly say, “MOM!!” I wrote ‘coming’ without even looking!!!” She was so proud of herself. I rejoiced with her, and realized that this activity was also helping her memorize how to spell words – a handful which she didn’t know yet. Even when she had a couple cards left and asked me for help, I explained that she only had those two left, she was doing such a great job, and just to keep working until she was finished. (A lesson in perseverance and discipline.)
What did I learn from this experience?
*She is absolutely capable when I encourage her and give her the tools to help her succeed.
*Encouraging my children to complete a task is always worth the valuable lessons it teaches them, even if it seems ‘hard’.
*Every day, normal situations are opportunities to teach lasting life lessons – and it’s my job to find them and take advantage of them.
And now, since she’s done it once on her own, she’ll have the confidence to know that she is fully capable of doing it again, and won’t see it as such a daunting task. I hope that she will look at it joyfully from here on out as an opportunity to not just use her manners or check something off her list, but utilize a life skill of taking time to realize and really appreciate what she has. I hope that it will become a habit that will become part of who she is – a woman with an attitude of gratitude.
Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Ephesians 5:20 – Give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up. – Max Lucado