AND, AND, AND...
Peeking out from the corner of my desk blotter is a note,
yellowing and bent from time.
It is a card from my mother, containing only four
sentences, but with
enough impact to change my life forever.
In it, she praises my abilities as a writer without
Each sentence is full with love, offering specific examples of
pursuit has meant to her and my father.
The word "but" never appears on the card, however the word
there almost a half dozen times.
Every time I read it--which is almost every day--I am
reminded to ask
myself if I am doing the same thing for my daughters. I've
how many times I've "but-ted" them, and me, out of happiness. I
say that it's more often than I'd like to admit.
Although our eldest daughter usually got all A's on her
there was never a semester when at least one teacher would not
she talked too much in class. I always forgot to ask them if
making improvement in controlling her behavior, if her comments
to the discussion in progress or encouraged a quieter child to
Instead, I would come home and greet her with,
"Congratulations! Your Dad
and I are very proud of your accomplishment, but could you try
to tone it
down in class?"
The same was true of our younger daughter. Like her
sister, she is a
lovely, bright, articulate and friendly child. She also treats
of her room and the bathroom as a closet, which has provoked me
to say on
more than one occasion, "Yes, that project is great, but clean
I've noticed that other parents do the same thing. "Our
was together for Christmas, but Kyle skipped out early to play
computer game." "The hockey team won, but Mike should have made
goal." "Amy's the homecoming queen, but now she wants $200 to
buy a new
dress and shoes." But, but, but.
Instead, what I learned from my mother is that if you
really want love
to flow to your children, start thinking "and, and, and..."
For example: "Our whole family was together for Christmas
Kyle mastered his new computer game before the night was
hockey team won, and Mike did his best the whole game." "Amy's
homecoming queen, and she's going to look gorgeous!"
The fact is that "but" feels bad -- "and" feels good. And
comes to our children, feeling good is definitely the way to
go. When they
feel good about themselves and what they are doing, they do more
building their self-confidence, their judgment and their
connections to others. When everything they say, think or do is
or put down in some way, their joy sours and their anger soars.
This is not to say that children don't need or won't
respond to their
parents' expectations. They do and they will, regardless of
expectations are good or bad. When those expectations are
bright and positive and then are taught, modeled and expressed,
things happen. "I see you made a mistake. And I know you are
enough to figure out what you did wrong and make a better
time." Or, "You've been spending hours on that project, and I'd
have you explain it to me." Or, "We work hard for our money,
and I know
you can help figure out a way to pay for what you want."
It's not enough just to say we love our children. In a
frustration has grown fierce, we can no longer afford to limit
expression. If we want to tone down the sound of violence in
we're going to have to turn up the volume on noticing, praising,
and participating in what is right with our children.
"No more buts!" is a clarion call for joy. It's also a
opportunity fresh before us every day to put our attention on
what is good
and promising about our children, and to believe with all our
they will eventually be able to see the same in us and the
people with whom
they will ultimately live, work and serve.
And if I ever forget, I have my mother's note to remind me.
-- Robin L. Silverman <silverma>
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