Last Friday, Matt was out of town and I was alone with both boys. I ordered dinner via Favor, which is my new favorite way to "make a clearing" and reduce the stress in my life. (Full Disclaimer: My brother-in-law works for favor, but my affinity for them is completely objective!)
Right when the delivery arrived, Henry came running out of the restroom. He had nothing but a shirt on, and he was exclaiming, "Mama! I have poop on my foot!"
The details of how that happened are not relevant to my point, so I'll spare you the gory details....
Anyway, as I was helping Henry clean up the mess, he asked, "Are you going to be mad about it, Mama?" I assured him that I wasn't going to be mad at all, but his comment left me wondering: Why is it that Henry would even think I would get mad?
I work really hard not to get mad when Henry spills water all over the floor, breaks a glass, or drops food. I remain calm and help him figure out how to clean it up.
But there are lots of other times when Henry probably feels me getting mad at him: when he's taking forever to climb into his car seat because he's messing around with anything and everything in the car; when he hurts Tate or an animal or a plant; when he won't do something I'm asking him to do, such as brush his teeth.
And it connected to something that his teacher said at our last parent conference. She explained that she thinks that Henry sometimes makes bad choices because he sees himself as a person who makes bad choices.
Is this partly because I make it so clear (so often) when he is making a bad choice? Do I make him feel like a person who makes bad choices?
And--on the other side of things--how often does he feel like he's making good choices? That he's a person who makes good choices?
I spent the rest of the night trying to point out the positive. "Henry, remember earlier when you held open the door for me at school? That made me feel so good! You are such a kind person!" "Henry, you asked Tate for his necklace so nicely! And you said 'thank you' when he gave it to you! You are so kind."
And our night was amazing. Even though it was only one night, it was enough to inspire me to pay more attention (again) to the ratio of my positive to negative interactions with Henry. I'm definitely going to have negative interactions with him. I'm going to have to tell him that there's not time to make applesauce before bed and that I didn't like it when he ripped the leaf off the plant. But even those things I can convey as positively as possible. And I can overshadow those negative interactions with a ton of positive ones. I've heard that the ideal ratio of positive to negative is 4:1.
And what would happen if I would transfer this concept into the rest of my life? What if I pushed four positive thoughts into my head for every negative thought?
I'm feeling pulled to do some real self-work. When I was living on my own in my early and mid-twenties, I used to read a lot of self-help books and loved how they pushed me to be a better person. Marriage, homeownership, motherhood, and my career seem to have de-priortized the intentional time I used to set aside to help myself grow as a person. Of course all of those things also help me grow as a person, but I see real value in setting aside separate time for introspection.