Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Value of Positivity


I am a person who likes to envision the glass half-full, instead of half-empty;  contemplating all of the possibilities that I can accomplish, instead of focusing on my shortcomings.  This mindset was not something that I gained from familial patterns that were passed down to me.  In fact, just the opposite!  I was brought up in a generation where perfectionism reigned.  I always believed that no matter how hard I tried, I could never reach the mark.  I would never be good enough.  There was little praise for effort or intention, with all of the attention focused on what I couldn’t accomplish.  This began a breeding ground for self-deprecation, depression, and anxiety.

As a beginning first grade teacher, I made a literal choice to not abide with a negative mindset.  What I had experienced in the past, would have no place in my classroom.  I had struggled through my elementary and middle school years in school, and I was determined to make school a better place for my students, than it had been for me.  I had a mission to make learning fun and accessible for all of my students.  Perfectionism and a negative attitude would have no place in my teaching.  Positive reinforcement and praise were the vehicles that I was going to incorporate in my educational plan for my students.  We were going to focus on what they could do, what they could accomplish, instead of their shortcomings.

This attitude carried over into my parenting when I became a mother 4 years later.  As a new mother I searched to find resources that focused on a child’s self-esteem and the effect that it had on learning.  Dorothy Corkille Briggs’ book- Your Child’s Self-Esteem was one of my favorites, along with James Dobson’s book, Dare to Discipline.  I saw the power of praise and encouragement in my own children’s lives.  It was so much more motivational than looking at the things that they did wrong.  Of course, we all make some wrong choices.  We will make mistakes.  But, to grow stronger and better, we need to view our mistakes as learning opportunities to choose another way,  a time to learn a new strategy to implement in the difficult areas of our lives.

Now, after being a mother and a teacher for 25 years, I have witnessed the success of this way of thinking.  As a grandmother of 9 grandchildren, I have seen the difference of having a positive and encouraging spirit.  I believe that it is human nature to focus on the negative, on what we believe that we “can’t” do.   I remember telling my 1st and 2nd grade students that one word that I would not accept hearing was the word, “can’t”, because can’t never could accomplish anything.  I even jokingly spoke of cutting the word “can’t” our of our dictionaries.   I wanted my students to “try” to succeed at a new or difficult task.  When you “try”, you may surprise yourself in what you can do.  Observing the lightbulb go off in a child’s head, when he finally understood, was thrilling to me!   Making an effort to try, and adopt new patterns or strategies was essential in learning.  This always happened in a child’s time, not always in “my time”.  Learning new skills happen on each child’s developmental timeline.  Some kids may grasp a new skill immediately, some after 1 or 2 repetitions, and others after multiple repetitions.

To gain this attitude of positivity, it is imperative that you adopt the strategy of “Catching your child being good“.  That entails observing your child doing the right thing so that you can praise him or her for their good choice.  Afterwards, you share this good news with other family members at the dinner table.  This is your way of modeling what are the correct and beneficial patterns for your children to follow.  For example:

  • You see your child helping his brother up after he falls.  You praise him for being kind and caring to his sibling.
  • You observe your child cleaning her room.  You give praise to her for being industrious and motivated to clean up her room.
  • You observe your child trying to be a peacemaker amidst conflict with her friends.  You praise her for her effort in trying to help find a solution with her peers.
  • You see your son generously sharing his toys with others.  You praise him for being generous and for sharing with his friends.
  • You tell your kids to get ready for bed.  One follows your directions and the others choose to play around.  You praise the one child who followed directions and was ready.

These positive comments that were given, acted as a catalyst to produce more positive behavior from the kids in days to come.  As a child perceives that he is getting attention from doing the right things, he will want to continue in like manner, because he is happy that he is pleasing you.  He is also receiving positive feedback about his behavior, which causes him to have the desire to repeat the behavior again and again.  On the other hand, if a child only gets comments when she is doing something wrong, she often will continue the negative behaviors, because this is her way of getting much-needed attention, or she might close down and stop trying altogether.

Dr. Jane Nelson on her Positive Parenting website states that you can create a positive atmosphere in your family when everyone learns to look for the good in each other and verbalize positive comments.  She continues, saying:

  • Compliments create a positive atmosphere.
  • Children learn to be “good finders” when they look for and verbalize the things they appreciate about family members.
  • Children usually fight less when they participate in regular family meetings that begin with compliments.
  • It is important for each member of the family give a compliment to every other member of the family so everyone feels a sense of belonging and significance.
  • Compliments may sound awkward at first, but they get better with practice.  You create a positive atmosphere in your family when everyone learns to look for the good in each other and verbalize positive comments.  When children and parents learn to give and receive compliments, negative tension is reduced considerably.

For the compliments given, one needs to focus on the accomplishments and helpfulness of others.  Dr. Nelson gives some examples:

  1. “I appreciate how quickly you get dressed and ready for school.”
  2. “I notice how kindly you cared for your sister when she felt sad.  I bet it helped her feel better.”
  3. “Thank you for setting the table.”

Incorporating these simple acts into your daily routine will change the atmosphere of your home.  Family meetings provide an opportunity to share your comments. Dr. Nelson suggests that families have regular family meetings to find solutions to problems and have family compliments as a part of that meeting.  She suggests the following:

  • Place blank compliment sheets on the refrigerator or in another convenient location.
  • When you or your kids see someone who deserves a compliment, write it down on one of the compliment sheets.  If your child is unable to write her compliment she could dictate it for you to write down.
  • At the beginning of each family meeting, family members read their compliments.
  • Make sure every family member receives at least one compliment.

Another author, Arlene Pellicane shares on her website, “The Happy Home”, five ways to become a more positive, purposeful parent.

  1. Reward initiative and effort.  Don’t buy into the “participation trophy” mentality in your parenting.  Instead reward your children for their effort and initiative.  When you see them reach a goal, make a point to celebrate and honor that accomplishment.  Give positive rewards for the following:  books being read, chores being done without complaint, test scores improving, and better behavior towards siblings.
  2. Make character building the highest priority.  Think of what you want your child to be when she is thirty.  Character traits such as being good, responsible, caring, courageous, and hard-working may come to your mind.  Focus on these traits in your parenting model.
  3. Teach your children how to manage emotions and do the right thing.  Don’t always ask the kids how they feel about this or that.  In our society we have downplayed the power of the will to do the right thing, even when we don’t feel like it.    Instead ask your child, “What do you think about that?”  “What is the right thing to do in this situation?”
  4. Make the Bible and prayer part of everyday life.  If you want to pass along a vibrant faith in God to your children, you must model it and talk about it.  You can pray with your child about a struggle at school.  Read a Psalm at breakfast. Memorize a verse a week together as a family.  Help and serve a family in your community. Let your children consistently see your faith in action.
  5. Put good habits in place- one at a time.  Studies show that 45-50% of what we do is habitual.  As parents we help our kids develop healthy habits that will really help them in adulthood.  Do they eat healthy food?  Are they getting enough exercise?  Do they finish tasks?

Arlene ends her article stating that as long as our children are under our roof, we still have time to make vital and positive adjustments.  It is never too late.  When you have a positive, growth mindset as a parent and you put a plan into place for your family, you will have more purpose and joy.

I heartily agree with Arlene; a positive growth mindset does produce more purpose and joy in your life as a parent and in the life of your children.  So, if you are tired of negativity and pessimism in your life, why don’t you give it a try?  There is great value in accentuating the positives!

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindness Can Make A Difference !


At this time of the year with the holiday of Valentine’s Day approaching, I am always drawn to the concept of sharing love and kindness to those whose paths we cross on our earthly journey.   As a former 1st and 2nd grade teacher, I always made it a point to accentuate the need for children to show kindness to their classmates, to the people responsible for teaching and raising them, and to their family and friends.  It was always a thrilling moment when the kids exchanged valentines and had their desks covered with all of the positive and caring sentiments that their fellow students had made for them.  The expressions on their faces were priceless as they opened each valentine and then affirmed thanks to the ones who gave them such a precious gift.  I always aimed at capturing the class’s attention at such a teachable moment to use it as a way of getting to the topic of how we were to treat others.   The important points often included the following ideas:

  • The Golden Rule- Treat others like you want to be treated.
  • Share with a classmate.
  • Show respect to each other, and to those in authority.
  • Use good manners, by saying “Please” and “Thank you”.
  • Help those in need- If a classmate falls, help them up.  If a classmate is upset, try to comfort him or her.
  • If you don’t have something nice to say to a friend, and are tempted to say something mean, then don’t say it at all.
  • Be kind to those around you in the classroom, on the playground, on the bus, and at home.
  • Be a good role model for others.

I know that many other teachers have taught the same concepts in their classes.  Therefore what has happened in our country today?  I have never seen such animosity, hatred, and violence.  In our adult world it appears as if any concept of kindness towards fellow human beings has faded into the woodwork.  The political scene has been disastrous!  I have often chosen not to watch the Evening News or read Facebook entries, because the comments made are filled with anger, hatred, and intolerance towards anyone who thinks different from the speaker, or writer.

I know that we are a nation of diverse people.  I see this fact as a very positive point, because we can learn from different kinds of people.  As we cross paths with people of different ethnicities and various colored skins and beliefs, we have the opportunity to grow as a person and expand our own horizons.  I acknowledge that I have become a better person as my life has been enriched by my African-American friends, by my friends from the Philipines, my Indian friends, my Korean friends, my Russian friends, my Turkish, Egyptian, and Iranian friends, and my friends from Nigeria and Kenya.  My son and daughter-in-law have adopted 3 African American girls, who truly light up my life!

I will have to admit that the current situation in our country absolutely breaks my heart.  I agree with so many people, who believed that there was no good choice for a Presidential candidate this past November.  Therefore, each of us had to make a choice of who to vote for. Since November what I have witnessed has been so distressing.   There has been a continual barrage of condemnation for anyone who voted for Trump, or for anyone who voices something positive about the President.  Madonna has spoken about bombing the White House.  Performers have been blacklisted, if they have been perceived as an ally of Trump.  Even in our own city, Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armor, has been under fire for making a supposedly positive statement about Trump.  On Inauguration Day businesses occurred broken windows and damage to their buildings as paid protestors went on a rampage.  Disparaging remarks were made about the President’s son.

On the other hand, I know that recent immigrants have felt threatened by the new policies of our President.  It has been horrible to see how some of our immigrants have been treated by fellow students in schools, and how fellow Americans have been unfairly treated by some of our police.  People accuse fellow Americans of being racists, bigots, and in being intolerant.  Yet, so often the people making those accusations are being intolerant towards anyone with a different opinion than theirs.

Everyone wants to have a voice, and in our country we are blessed to have freedom of speech.  It is fantastic that we have the ability to speak  what is heavy on our hearts to others.  Yet, it needs to be done in a way where others are not being condemned and belittled for their beliefs.  We can speak in a civil manner with respect for people who we disagree with.

The bottom line is that arguing and fighting is not a pleasant way to exist.  These behaviors actually are harmful to our health, and the health of our families.  In the publication, Psychological Science, a recent study showed that those who focused on warm, and compassionate thoughts about themselves and others were happier and healthier, due to how these behaviors affected the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve regulates how efficiently heart rate changes with breathing.  The greater its tone, the higher the heart-rate variability and the lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and other major killers.  It may also play a role in regulating glucose levels and immune responses.  It also influences the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is important in social bonding. It has been found that the higher the vagus tone the greater closeness a person will experience with others, as well as having more altruistic behaviors.  Therefore, scientific research has shown that kindness definitely has many benefits for our bodies and our over-all health.

The Greek word for kindness, as used in the New Testament, means uprightness or benevolence and describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing our patience.  Kindness can be quite unnatural, since when we have been offended, we tend to react in anger or bitterness.  Kindness helps us to do just the opposite, in such cases- to respond with love and forgiveness.  Titus 3:4-5 states:

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but  because of His mercy.”

God shared His kindness to us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to forgive us of our sins, and for His Spirit to dwell within us to help us with all of our struggles here on earth.  He asks us to share the kindness that He bestowed upon us, to others.  Ephesians 4:32 states:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”

1 Corinthians 13:4 gives us a fuller picture of kindness:

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

In an article, entitled “Love One Another”, from Focus on the Family, the point is made that Jesus loved people:  thieves, prostitutes, tax collectors, sick people, poor people, wealthy people, children, and His followers.  He loved people who were devoted to Him and those who were different, difficult, and dangerous.  His love has not changed in over 2,000 years.  Since we are loved by Him, He calls us to love like Him.  He desires for us to:

  • Forgive one another- even when they don’t deserve it or ask for it.  This demonstrates a love that keeps no records of wrong.
  • Accept one another- to love like this one is patient and kind, even when someone doesn’t meet your expectations.
  • Honor one another- esteem others as highly valuable.

Our ability to love others comes from God.  We can only give love when our hearts are full of God’s love.

Listen to other statements about kindness from well-known personalities that I found on the blog, inkhappi.com:

  • “As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.”- spoken by Caroline Kennedy
  • “Constant kindness can accomplish much.  As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” spoken by Albert Schweitzer
  • “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” spoken by Princess Diana
  • “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” spoken by Mark Twain.
  • “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” spoken by Aesop
  • “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” spoken by Audrey Hepburn
  • “Here are the values that I stand for:  honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping others in need.  To me those are traditional values.” spoken by Ellen DeGeneres
  • “But then there are magical, beautiful things in the world.  There’s incredible acts of kindness and bravery, and in the most unlikely places, and it gives you hope.” spoken by Dave Matthews

Consequently, it is up to each of us whether we choose to participate in acts of kindness or not.  We can choose to make a positive difference in our dark world by the specific things that we say or do.   As we demonstrate kindness to others, we model for our children how they can share it, as well.  And, we display how we can have hope in the midst of despair.

The writer of the blog, inkhappi.com,shares a list of:

20 Simple Things You Can Do Everyday To Show Kindness

  1. SMILE
  2. Say a friendly hello to a stranger.
  3. Sincerely compliment someone.
  4. Favors:  Hold a door or pick up or carry something for another person.
  5. SMILE
  6. Say I love you to someone you love.
  7. Hug someone.
  8. High Five someone.
  9. Thank someone.
  10. SMILE
  11. Contribute 10 or more minutes to a good cause.
  12. Give something to someone- food, money, flowers, etc.
  13. Do an anonymous favor for a family member or friend.
  14. Make someone laugh.
  15. SMILE
  16. Defend someone.
  17. Express concern for someone with needs.
  18. Talk to someone shy or lacking in confidence.
  19. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
  20. SMILE

I also found another article by Anna Ranson on her blog, The Imagination Tree.   Anna has a list of acts of kindness for kids.  I will share some of her well-intentioned ideas.

Acts of Kindness for Kids

  1. Feed the birds.
  2. Donate books to a doctor’s waiting room.
  3. Give magazines to a hospital.
  4. Bake cookies or cake and share with others.
  5. Tidy away toys.
  6. Make your bed.
  7. Pick up litter.
  8. Call Grandma and Grandpa.
  9. Donate toys and clothes to needy kids
  10. Send happy mail.
  11. Sort the laundry.
  12. Clear the table.
  13. Say Hello.
  14. Walk the dog.

I would like to add a few other ideas.

  • Help neighbors with yard work or getting their mail when they are traveling.
  • Tell a veteran thank you for his or her service to our country.
  • Bake cookies and/or make cards of appreciation and deliver them to our police force and our fire-fighters.
  • Visit a nursing home or rehab center and visit those in care, singing songs to them.
  • Visit the pet shelter and read a story to the pets.   The Miller Branch library has a program where children can participate in this venture.
  • Make a card for someone who is sick or has lost a loved one.
  • Visit and/or help make a meal for a family where one of the parents are in the military and have gone overseas.
  • Take care of a neighbor’s pet.
  • Look for opportunities where you can shed the light of kindness and hope to the people who cross your path.
  • Make homeless bags that include crackers, socks, hand sanitizer, tissues, and lotion, and then hand them out to the homeless people who you come across.
  • Pay for the person behind you at a fast food restaurant- paying it forward.

In closing, remember that kindness does matter in this world that we live in.  You can make someone’s day by sharing your light of kindness, encouragement, and hope.

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith