Seeing negative things in others can make us sad; seeing positive things can make us happier

There have been many parents who come to me and share concerns about their children, but in the process I hear comments about significant others as well.
The task of raising children is monumental, but in working so hard to keep them from doing things that are wrong, sometimes we forget to notice the things they do well. We become hypercritical, and that overflows into being hypercritical of significant people in our lives, and even strangers.
Years ago, I caught myself seeing the shoes left in the middle of the living room floor and letting the frustration start in my stomach. Once it starts, it’s difficult to stop. I’d start to see all the other things he left out and make myself angry. The reality was that I had just as many things out, but my own messes didn’t both me. I knew I had plans to pick them up, but for some reason, I guess I didn’t think he planned to pick his own things up. That was silly of me.
For example: if my husband put the dishes in the dishwasher and didn’t put the food away, I would focus on the food that didn’t get put away rather than the fact that he put the dishes in the dishwasher. I would focus on what made me unhappy rather than what made me happy. How many wives would be thrilled if their spouse would put the dishes in the dishwasher? Over time, I have worked to focus on the wonderful things he does. When I get aggravated, I work even harder to remember the good things. I believe I am a happier person than I used to be.
I believe there is a direct link between being thankful and being happy. It would be like when we have a nice house, instead of being thankful, we look at houses that are bigger or fancier. That fosters jealousy and unhappiness. If I have a home, I need to be thankful for it, being aware that there are those who have no home.
The same attitude applies to our children.
If your children come home from school and tell you about their days, be thankful! It supports their brain growth and strengthens the relationship between you. They might go on a bit or have difficulty being efficient in their story telling, but that is to be expected (depending on age, of course). What often happens is that children come home wanting to talk…and eat. They chatter and make a mess in the kitchen. Now on one hand, yes, they need to learn to clean up their messes. But what I’m trying to describe is that many parents focus on the mess and not on the fact that their children loves them enough to share their day.
There is always something good to see. As we point out these things to our children, they blossom. They want attention from us. If we give them positive attention, they will work to be more positive. Given negative attention, they will be more negative.
For an experiment, count how many times you tell your child no in a given day. I used to say it a lot. Now I try to say yes whenever I can. Try to make “No” be the exception not the rule, unless, of course, it’s a safety issue.
One of the worst things parents can do, though, is to say “no” over and over again, then cave. That teaches their children that if they just nag enough, they will get their way. I’ve seen/heard it happen so many times! If you so no, please stick to it! A tangent of that is if you offer fifteen more minutes of play time, and the child begs for twenty, reduce your offer to ten. Negotiating might be a good thing to learn, but not if it undermines your authority. Yes, children do need to learn how to make decisions and deal with consequences. So offer choices. Offer two choices that are both fine with you. That way they get to choose, and you see a result that you can live with.

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