Are you good at gratitude?
I don’t mean the #gratitude posts on your social streams, memes and gifs on your stories or quick thank you’s in passing while doing a million other things. I mean the deep breath in stillness, heartfelt, eyes closed or eye contact gratitude you feel in your body.
When your life is moving fast with more stress than you’d like and a moody teen or two fraying your nerves, gratitude can feel fleeting and more like an extra than a staple.
I lived in that place for years.
Ok, decades. Living in survival to escape anxiety, emotional trauma and all the other things falling short of perfect in my life was my sweet spot. I was a master at seeing mistakes and driving myself to exhaustion to fix them….including my kids.
No matter how fast they did what I asked or how they did it, I had some smiley-faced, pleasant but passive aggressive voiced feedback about how they could improve. I wanted my kids to succeed and have every opportunity in life and being their best would pave that path.
Famous words from a Nitpicking Nelly (me… slowly raising my hand).
My intentions were loving and good and my boys are very independent and domestically skilled because of my efforts. However, they felt resentful, disrespected and demotivated to do what I asked let alone offer to help when I constantly pointed out what wasn’t perfect.
I was repeating what I learned, forgetting the constant correction NEVER motivated me to work harder or do more.
You missed a spot.
The words that lower your teen’s chin and gaze even slightly as their shoulders slump forward. Even if that’s how you were raised, and you turned out ok (also famous words), it’s not working with your teen.
This is a tool I learned in my relationship coach training that changed everything in my relationship with my kids (and my husband). When I understood how important positive feedback was to reinforce healthy habits, increase motivation and build respect and connection, I hopped on bored fast.
Giving positive feedback doesn’t mean you don’t offer correction. It means you change your focus to finding what your teen did right and comment on that rather than nitpicking every detail as if your teen was aiming for perfect or to be as proficient as you. Because they weren’t. Your teen is learning new skills so measure your corrections over time, strategically placed between many more positive affirmations.
Gratitude starts with you.
This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving and I realized I’d been back in survival mode, driving in high gear with my inner perfectionist at the wheel. Day after day trying to hit some unattainable destination in an unreasonable time. I missed the gratitude in the small moments of my journey I’m looking back and seeing now.
Gratitude in hindsight is a lost moment of connect for any relationship, whether it’s with your teen, your partner or yourself. Just like anything in your rearview mirror, it’s much smaller than when you were beside it, and you can’t go back.
This last week I exhaled, slower and deeper than I have in long time. I’m repeating “I’m proud of you” and “I love you” to myself after every task, throwing in “great job!”
What is your teen doing right?
Beyond the nitpicking and expectations, what is your teen doing right you can commend them for today? Pick one thing your teen already does or did that you asked and let them know you’re grateful for them, and that behaviour.
These are the kinds of conversations we’re having in my private parenting community, The Empowered Parent Community, a safe and supportive place to share your most vulnerable challenges without the shaming or criticism. In this community, we encourage each other with compassion and positive feedback to build confidence to try new tools even if you’re feeling defeated or scared. Join me and other courageous, caring parents for semi-monthly LIVE Q&As and exclusive mini modules to give you the tools you need when you need them: Lying, resentment, academic performance, getting your teen to listen, accountability, peer pressure, toxic communication and more. Click below to get start today!