“Dinner is getting cold! How many times do I have to tell you to get off that game!”
“You kids are driving me crazy! I won’t tell you again to keep your voices down!”
“I am so tired of you two arguing over a computer! Why can’t you just learn to share?!”
… I really can’t tell you how sick I was of hearing my own voice. I was beginning to feel like a total nag and absolutely loathed having to be in constant competition with a screen. It made me feel utterly powerless and my growing frustration was doing nothing to help my kids. I knew they resented me, and it felt awful. The vicious cycle of negativity needed to be broken if we were to have any chance at a calmer home, let alone a happy one.
Breaking the Cycle: Complaining vs. Stating Needs
The sooner I discovered the difference, the sooner I broke that cycle. Aha! Parenting has a great definition of complaining that I urge everyone (parent or not!) to take note: Complaining is when we blame others, or life, instead of accepting the situation and taking responsibility to make things better. Stating your needs is being seen, heard and understood without making the other person feel at fault. There is a difference.
I began to see how constantly casting blame on my sons was doing nothing for them but reaffirming that they weren’t good enough. My bad habit was spreading like a virus in my own home and my little boys were internalising it all. But let’s rewind for a moment. Bad habit. That’s exactly all that it was. I took comfort in knowing that habits can be changed for the better with a little rewiring of the brain.
My Quest for Happiness: The Happiness Project
What I was paying attention to was growing. The more I berated my tween for his Minecraft mania, the more his obsession, and anger towards me grew. That’s when I decided to take responsibility to make things better by smashing my complaint jar and starting a brand new project, of the happy kind!
The Happiness Project is built around the idea of seeing the beauty in the every day. It not only encouraged me to be grateful, but also shifted my focus from seeing the negative to seeing the positive in my children. After all, the opposite of complaining is gratitude.
I began to slowly but surely pay more attention to my son’s positive behaviour. My new found optimistic approach to parenting was not easily acquired, but over time I learned to “catch my child doing good”. I kept a cheat sheet to get me started, but I love the idea of starting my own variation of the Happiness Jar like Heather from Mommypotamus.com.
The goal is to write down something positive your child does each day, no matter how trivial it may be, and toss it in the jar. Make a commitment to happiness for the next 365 days. It really is a great way to break the cycle of negativity and even start to notice trends. Soon you’ll be challenging your family to start their own Happiness Jar!
Strengthening the Bond: Descriptive Praise
I’d like to take this concept a step further by suggesting another component to add to your Happiness Project. You’ve already taken the first step by noticing your child’s good behaviour. The next step is to be specific about what it is that you liked about their behaviour. Start by taking a note out of your Happiness Jar and reading it out loud:
“My son finished his homework on time.”
Now practice reading it out loud as if you were relaying it directly to your child in a manner that is deliberate and specific.
“You didn’t go on Minecraft until you finished some of your homework. That is very responsible of you.”
See the difference? The descriptive praises began to roll off my tongue easier with practice, and I soon started to notice the real positive impact it was having on my relationship with my sons. I had successfully smashed my complaint jar and given my family a fighting chance at happiness. You can too by downloading our free eBook “14 Positive Phrases for Taming the Gaming (without Blaming and Shaming)”. Hope it helps to get you started!