Our blog is called "Five Real Moms" for a reason. We are real moms with real challenges and real aspirations. We have real hopes and dreams and just as real stumbling blocks and trials.
Today, I hope to share a very real part of me. It's not my best side and, like all of us, I'd rather pretend I was perfect than admit out loud on a blog that I'm weak. But, what would be the point or being a "real" mom if I didn't have challenges and weaknesses?
Over the years, as I've raised my family, I've noticed an ongoing weakness. I forget to praise my kids and husband. I think great things about them all the time. I'm astounded by their willingness to serve. I admire so much my kids' kindness and eagerness to forgive. I love how smart and fun they are. I cherish the affection and patience of my husband. Each night I go to bed in awe of my great family. But, I rarely tell them.
On the other hand, I'm really "good" at pointing out where they need to improve. "You forgot to put your piano books away" after hearing them practice obediently for 30 minutes. "Why can't you hang up your backpack like I asked you?" after they excitedly ran in the house to give me a report of their day. "Stop making so much noise" as they happily play together. "You missed a spot on the mirror" without noticing how well they cleaned the counter tops. "You need to learn to talk to each other nicely" while I go on criticizing when there is so much to compliment.
A few months ago, I tried something new. For so many of you, this may seem odd. It is. Especially for people who don't struggle with saying uplifting things to others. For so many, it is a natural gift. But, for me (and I would assume at least a few other people out there), giving sincere compliments feels awkward and uncomfortable. It doesn't come naturally.
So, I started using my cell phone to help me. I set my reminder on my cell phone to ring every hour. When it rang, I knew that I was to praise one of my children for something. At first, it was awkward. My kids would look at me funny when my phone would ring and I'd start praising them. But, I had a lesson to learn. I needed to learn to lift up my kids through words.
Days turned into weeks and bit by bit, the complimenting became natural. I no longer needed the reminders, but kept them just to be sure I kept the habit. Soon, my kids caught on. They started praising more and we found the feeling in our home was warm and inviting.
Then, something terrible happened. My cell phone broke. I bought a cheap new one, that didn't let me set recurring reminders. Old habits returned and before long I noticed that my kids were picking on each other more. They were pointing out what everyone else did wrong instead of noticing all that they were doing well. Then, it hit me. I had stopped lifting up my kids. I had completely lost the habit of complimenting.
I need a new cell phone.
I learned two lessons: When something is a weakness, it's okay to step out and "force" yourself to work at it until it becomes natural. And, a little bit of praise can go a long way in increasing happiness all around us.
So, today, take some time to praise someone else. Lift them up. Help them feel good about themselves. And, if it's not your strength, find a way to remind yourself to do it until it is. I guarantee the world around you will be a bit brighter because you did.