In my parenting, I have found it very helpful to have a few sayings that I can easily pull out. Nuggets that teach my kids about life, sayings that remind them of things our family holds true. There is power in a punchy and repeated phrase, and I try to wield that power strategically. Here are some of my favorites.
Hogwash! I say this anytime my kids tell me something patently false that needs to be swiftly rebutted. Things like I’m too tired to clean up. Or We never do anything fun. Or I’m not good at math. Hogwash! I say. Boom. End of discussion. Some ideas just need to be rejected quickly and emphatically.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. Of all my mom’s words that play in my head, this is perhaps the most useful for my own parenting. While the Bible’s Do not repay evil with evil is more sophisticated, I find that two wrongs not making a right pops off my tongue more quickly. And it has the added bonus of bringing in math.
I’m not interested in fairness. See my prior discussion of this.
You are going to need to be brave. Like myself, my kids experience trepidation when faced with new situations. Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or a party with people they don’t know, they feel fear when they are asked to do something they have never done before. I have found it helpful to frame these situations in terms of bravery. We acknowledge their fear, pay it respect, and then ask them to surmount it. Then we also talk about building your brave muscles.
As I’ve written before, I care a great deal about wisdom. When my kids have asked what wisdom is, my answer is that wisdom is being smart about life. That’s the working definition we use. I want you to be generous. Rather than saying You need to share, I like to focus on generosity. In my experience, much of life can be viewed through the lens of generosity. We have tried to talk about generosity and train our kids’ hearts toward it from their early years. Are you being generous with your toys? With your attitude? With your time? With your words? When in doubt, choose generosity.
You can tell God that. My kids have wondered at times how much they can share with God. Can they share their silliness? Can they share their fears? Can they share their anger? Or their sadness? My answer is Yes to all of the above. God can handle it—nothing we reveal is going to frighten Him or push Him away. Much of what I see in the gospels is Jesus inviting people to come closer, to pursue him with more questions and more conversation. Learning to do that may be the very “secret of the kingdom” that Jesus talks about throughout the gospel of Mark. Given this, I want my kids to learn to bring their whole selves to God, to let it all hang out. Nothing needs to be cleaned up or polished.
What sayings do you use with your kids? And with yourself?