One of my goals in raising Henry is to raise a confident and kind child. I hope that he will feel competent and valued and, at the same time, will learn manners and skills that will help him grow into a well adjusted adult. One of the ways in which I try to model positive behavior and reinforce actions that I like is by thanking Henry.
Although toddlers give plenty of opportunities to scold and correct, I try to focus on appreciating the good things Henry does. On a daily basis he gives me the opportunity to thank him for:
Being kind. I love when Henry is kind to people we interact with out in the community. We talk about how it is especially important to be kind to people who are serving us. At the grocery store they recognize and always greet Henry by name. They rave about how he is their favorite baby. I always tell him how much I appreciate the kindness he shows strangers when he waves or smiles at them, while simultaneously telling him that I appreciate how he stays close to mommy to make sure he is safe.
Helping. Even though toddlers are often up to no good and seem to be purposefully causing trouble, they are also big helpers (at least in their eyes) and I like to show appreciation for that helping spirit. If I ask Henry to bring me something and he does, if he cleans up, or helps carry something, I am sure to thank him. Even if he decides to engage in a "helpful" behavior that isn't helpful, I thank his effort. After all, isn't it the thought that counts?
For listening. How often do my desires and Henry's line up? I'm sure not often in his eyes. He wants to stay outside when it's time to go inside. He wants to play with the cookies when I say he can't. He doesn't want to get in his car seat and I make him. For all the times he cooperates, even after a struggle, I thank him.
For affection. I always thank Henry for showing his daddy and me affection. I also thank him for being gentle with our bunny Max. I greatly appreciate the hugs, cuddles, and kisses he gives and want him to know that I do.
For using kind language. Shortly after I started asking Henry to say "please mama." He started giving his own version of "please" by saying "mama" in a special tone. When he gets angry and demands something or yells at me, I ask him to "ask nicely." Immediately he will change to his kind tone and say "mama." I always tell him that I appreciate him asking so nicely. He has also started interchanging "mama" for thank you. (I think evidence that my words of appreciation are being heard.) As a result, I also thank him for saying thank you.
For being patient. Most of the time Henry has to follow my time line even if it contradicts with his--maybe I am working on a blog post, going to the bathroom, on a phone call, or we are standing in line. Some of those times I feel impatient too so I can only imagine how he must feel. When we waits for me or with me, I am sure to thank his patience, and I especially try to show my appreciation before he expresses frustration.
Even on the roughest of days, I can always find things to thank Henry for. I believe it's important for so many reasons and will continue to seek out ways to appreciate Henry's daily contributions.