I usually ask them to clean their room but this question changed how I look at motherhood.
Last week I asked my children, “How can I be a better mom to you?” I got the idea from a friend who had asked her daughter the same question. Her daughter, who is in high school, said “Can we read together at night?” How great is that? I was sure that my children would ask for things like more screen time, less rules, messy rooms, and more spending money. Many moms that I talk to don’t think they are doing a good job as parents. They are sure that they are ruining their children in some dramatic fashion and that others are happier and better parents than they are. I guess I worried about the same things because I was nervous to ask my children the better mom question.
My kids seemed shocked when I asked the question. Maybe I was setting them up to get in trouble or to then pounce on them regardless of their answers. I guaranteed that I would not be defensive and that I would earnestly consider their suggestions. And here’s what they came up with:
• Make sure you always say please when you ask us to do things, even things that we were supposed to do but didn’t do. You constantly remind us to say please and thank you and we like when you do it too.
• Try not to talk on the phone when we are in the car with you because we either like to talk to you or we like to listen to music and relax while you drive. We want you present even if we don’t have anything to say.
• When we are talking to you, even if it seems like something trivial, please turn off your laptop, ipad, and/or cell phone. If it’s on, you keep glancing over at it as if it has something more interesting to say than what we are saying.
And that was all they asked for. They didn’t ask for gourmet meals, or philosophical advice from me, or less boundaries and less rules. They didn’t ask for more involvement in their school work or homework help or guarantees that they would get into the best colleges or protection from the scary world. No, they asked for good manners and my emotional presence in their lives. It’s funny because I’ve spent so much more time worrying about other ways that I can be a good mom that I forgot these very simple and very meaningful things.
After our talk I agreed to their requests and I gave them permission to remind me when I wasn’t following through. I’ve been nicely reminded quite a bit but the look on their faces when I accept the reminder and make the change is priceless. Now it seems silly that I was so nervous to ask them for their input. We ask for feedback in other aspects of our lives why not this one and why not from the young people who matter most? I survived my first quarterly review as a mom and now I’m asking for a raise! Who’s with me?
Lisa Kaplin is a life coach, professional speaker, and psychologist at www.smartwomeninspiredlives.com
You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com