Gratitude: we hear a lot about it this time of year. Count your blessings. Be grateful for what you have. Say one thing you’re thankful for before we eat.
Here’s a twist on this concept for parenting. Parents tell me this is the one thing I tell them to do that changes everything.
Think of your child. If you have more than one, begin with the child that is the most challenging for you right now. Get out a piece of paper, and list five things you love about that child. They can be general (she is enthusiastic) or specific (I love the way his laugh sounds).
Place the list where you will see it so that you read it every night before you go to bed and every morning before you start interacting with that child. Then do an experiment and notice if anything changes for you over the next week or two.
If this is helpful to you, you can make a list for all of your children. If you want to take it a step further, make one about your partner or spouse, if you have one. And finally, make a list of five things you love about yourself as a parent. Read these faithfully every night before sleeping and every morning before you interact with others.
Research shows that we notice more of what we focus on. For example, what type of car do you drive? Do you notice that make and model more now that you are driving it? Many people say yes. And it’s because it’s in the forefront of your mind more, so you notice more of those cars—not because there are all of the sudden more of them in your town.
The same holds true with parenting. It’s not a magic wand—however, if we focus on those attributes we love in our children, our spouse and ourselves, we are more likely to see them more often. And that changes everything.