A few weeks ago, Lenny asked Pink how she was doing. She quickly responded, “Happy. Always happy.”
Those of you who have parented an almost-two-year old know that they aren’t always happy. But when it comes to Pink, she doesn’t seem to think she’s anything but. At least not for long. In fact, you can stop her temper tantrums (most of them, at least) by saying, “Who’s my happy girl?” She laughs and starts pointing at anybody and everybody around her. And there she is again, my happy girl.
I’d love to take credit for Pink’s miraculous sunshiny outlook, but I’m afraid I also parented my other two kids who certainly don’t fall into the same easy-going, smiley category. Which got me thinking. How much of how our kids see themselves is nature, and how much is nurture?
No doubt Pink was born with a personality that allows her not to get too worked up about things (except, perhaps, her attire or her handsy brothers). But I can’t help but think that the constant reinforcement of people around her talking about how happy she is, makes her, well, happy. Goodness knows she’s heard people say, “Wow, she’s just always happy, isn’t she?” Or, “What a happy girl!” It makes sense that she’d learn to see herself the same way.
My boys, well, I rarely find myself — or anyone else for that matter — saying that they seem so happy. People point out that they’re well behaved. (In public.) That they’re good listeners. (To other people.) That they’re full of energy. (Everywhere.)
And what do I say to them? “Must you always make such a mess?” “My goodness, do you ever run out of energy?” “Hey there, grumpy.” “Hurry up.” “This is the third time I’ve asked you to X!” And, well, I’ve been told I’m supposed to empathize. “Wow, I can tell that X is really hard for you.” “You’re having a tough day, aren’t you?”
Hmm. It’s not that any of those things are untrue, but I’m beginning to wonder how much of my frustrations about my kids have unintentionally been reinforced by the way I talk to them.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do my best to be positive and to build them up. I focus on their strengths, tell them when they do things to make me proud, and call them things like “sweet boy”, “handsome”, “clever little guy”, “great problem solver”, and “strong boy”. They certainly have a cheerleader in me. But, still. I can’t help but wonder if I could shift their outlook a bit, simply by changing my vocabulary.
So I’m giving it a try. Instead of “sweet boy”, I’m saying “happy boy”. When I come home from
Starbucks the office, I’m saying, “There are my happy kids!” When I kiss them goodnight, I’m whispering, “I love you, happy boys.”
I don’t mean to imply that I want them to see the world as all rainbows and unicorns. If you read this blog regularly, hopefully you know that I think it’s important to be as positive as possible, while also embracing the ups and downs of reality. But I do think our minds are so very powerful.
Only time will tell if this works, but I’m hoping to see a difference. Because, in truth, everybody could use a little more happy.
What do you think? Do you believe your vocabulary can impact your family’s outlook on life?