Today I had a lousy day!
Today we have a guest post by Margie Hord Méndez.
Today I had a lousy day!
Our first-grader Steve was excited about reading and writing, so we hung up a calendar in his room for him to mark the passing of time and record events. Once, at the end of a month I happened to look at the calendar and, to my dismay, realized that almost every single day he had written things down such as “lousy day”, “terrible day” and “worst day of all”. Not a single neutral or happy remark.
“Hey! What about the day you learned to swim?” I asked Steve. Even that milestone had been forgotten after some quarrel with his sister, it seemed. My once sunny-natured boy was obviously unhappy.
Perhaps that was asking for too much. But my eyes had been opened to the fact that my son was going through a difficult period where he felt that everyone and everything in his life were against him. Time for action!
One of my first steps was to cut down on TV time. Another was making the effort to get him together with friends occasionally, as he had none living nearby. Perhaps the hardest part for me was becoming more aware of the kind of verbal input I was giving to Steve. I realized that much of my communication with him was along the line of “Wash your hands”, “Feet off the sofa!”, and “Hurry up!” None of us thrives on commands and criticism; much less so my sensitive boy.
I had to look for opportunities to give him honest praise, or take a minute to give him a hug and say “I love you”. When he woke up in the morning, I tried to say something like “All ready for another great day?” At bedtime I tried to be alone with him for a minute and review the “good things” the day had given or, when we prayed, affirm his gifts and potential as I thanked God for him.
Sibling rivalry was one of the flies in Steve’s soup. Giving him a little more attention (where his more demanding sister easily attracted the spotlight) was helpful. We also had a few talks about the fact that we can’t let one lousy thing wreck our day, and that attitude makes a big difference. I let him know that I would crack down on negative attitudes as well as bad behavior. I shared how I myself tended to get depressed if I dwelt too much on one negative thing in my life, and we discussed how we learn from life’s challenging experiences.
I can’t say that Steve changed overnight, but I found him gradually frowning less and complaining less. He wrote down an occasional remark about the day’s events. Later, in second grade, he continued to be a bit of a loner (like I was as a child), sensitive when he got left out of games with other kids. But he made friends with another shy boy. Fights with his sister blew over more easily. When asked in Social Studies how the members of a family relate to one another, he wrote down “with love and respect”. Not the answer they wanted, but one that warmed my heart.
Perhaps these changes would have occurred with time, as children often grow out of different stages. But I like to believe that positive input had a part in improving our son’s outlook on life and his self-image. Then I too could use regular reminders on watching my words and attitudes, because they definitely affect the entire family.