One of my favorite memories of being a little girl was spending my summer afternoons outside. I was an imaginative child and would spend my days adventuring in the backyard with imaginary friends. I also passed my fair share of days catching crickets and grasshoppers into my bug catcher. I know that so many of you are cringing at the thought, of a little girl passing her time catching bugs, but I was a tomboy at my core and was fascinated with the outdoors. During these days spent outside, I loved picking dandelions. My mom, being so particular about her yard, would beg me not to blow on them saying, “They are weeds and I don’t want them all over my yard.” I could not understand why my mom wouldn’t want the pretty yellow and white flowers in her yard, and truth be told, I still don’t understand those who are anti-dandelion. It is even possible, that on occasion I will still blow a dandelion in my parents’ yard when I get the chance just to make my childhood self smile, but that is our little secret. However, the one thing I will agree with my mom on is that if I continued to blow on every dandelion I picked, our yard would indeed have been full of them.
Here’s the thing about weeds, if you blow on them, they spread. The same can so easily be said for our children. The behavior that we give the most attention to, is the behavior we are going to see the most of. If we praise our children for the positive, the positive is going to thrive. If we constantly are putting our focus on the negative, the negative is only going to intensify. Why? Because children crave connection, and they will use whatever behavior is going to lead them closest to connecting.
I have found that as a mom it is so easy to fall into the crazy cycle. Do you know the days I am talking about? The ones where one particular child (or maybe all of your children) have an escalating set of misbehaviors that seem to get worse all day long. Tempers are high, and nothing is working to improve the child’s behavior. In those moments you may feel as though the weeds are overtaking your home.
Karyn Purvis, a well-known advocate that helped countless foster and adoptive families once said, “Behavior is the language of children who have lost their voice.” It is so easy as a parent to get caught up in this crazy cycle of constantly going from one misbehavior to another that we forget to connect with our kids. Before we know it, we are watering all of the weeds in our children’s lives, and forgetting to water the flowers.
What are the flowers? The good things. The things that you absolutely love about your kids. The way he says something to make you laugh at just the right time. The way she hugs you tight each and every night. The unique and creative brain that God gave him. The awesome job she did putting her shoes on this morning (even if they were on the wrong feet). The way he shared with his brother earlier today. The way she studied so hard for her test last night, even if she didn’t make the grade she was hoping for. The way he did a good just self-regulating and not screaming when something made him upset. There is always good to praise if we just look hard enough for it.
When things start to get crazy with my boys, I have realized that I have a choice: I can stop, take a deep breath, and really connect with my child, saving the misbehavior to be dealt with later, or I can continue down the path that I am on, intensifying the cycle of broken connection and poor behavior. I don’t always get this right, and I have found that everytime that I choose to water the weeds instead of taking a moment to focus on the good things just continue to get worse. However, if I will take the time needed to connect before I correct and praise the good, I have found that those weeds won’t continue to spread. In fact, the flowers and the good often tend to replace it.
Water the flowers, my friend. Don’t water the weeds, and I promise you will see your children begin to flourish before your eyes.