Have you ever noticed how often we as a society say the word "but"? It is just one of the small pieces of a rapidly growing negativity in our society and one that we could all easily fix. I never paid much attention to how often I use the word or its negative effects on my attitude and life until I was reading my Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul and came across the following story by Robin Silverman. Though her story focuses mainly on kids, I've taken it as my personal challenge as part of my self improvement journey to try and use this word less (not at all if possible) in every asspect of my life and I extend the challenge to all of you.
"And, And, And
Peeking out from the corner of my desk blotter is a note, slowly yellowing
and bent from time.
It is a card from my mother, containing only four sentences, but with enough
impact to change my life forever.
In it, she praises my abilities as a writer without qualification. Each
sentence is filled with love, offering specific examples of what my pursuit has
meant to her and my father.
The word "but" never appears on the card. However the word "and" is there
almost a half dozen times.
Every time I read it- which is almost every day- I am reminded to ask myself
if I am doing the same thing for my daughters. I've asked myself how many times
I've "but-ed" them, and me, out of happiness.
I hate to say that it's more often than I'd like to admit.
Although our eldest daughter usually got all As on her report card, there was
never a semester when at least one teacher would not suggest that she talked to
much in class. I always forgot to ask them if she was making improvent in
controlling her behavior, if her comments contributed to the discussion in
progress or encouraged a quieter child to talk. Instead, I would come home and
greet her with, "Congratulations! Your dad and I are very proud of your
accomplishments, but could you try to tone it down in class?"
The same was true of our younger daughter. Like her sister, she is a lovely,
bright, articulate and friendly child. She also treats the floor of her room
and the bathroom as a closet, which has provoked me to say on more than one
occasion, "Yes, that project is great, but clean up your room!"
I've noticed that other parents do the same thing. "Our whole family was
together for Christmas, but Kyle skipped out early to play his new computer
game." "The hockey team won, but Mike should have made that last goal." "Amy's
the homecoming queen, but now she wants twon hundred dollars to buy a new dress
But, but, but.
Instead, what I learned from my mother is that if you really want love to
flow to your children, start thinking "and, and, and...." instead.
For example: "Our whole family was together for Christmas, and Kyle mastered
his new computer game before the night was through." "The hockey team won, and
Mike did his best the whole game." "Amy's the homecoming queen, and she's going
to look gorgeous!."
The fact is that "but" feels bad- "and" feels good. And when it comes to our
children, feeling good is definitely the way to go. When they feel good about
themselves and what they're doing, they do more of it, building their
self-confidence, their judgement and their harmonious connections to others.
When everything they say, think or do is qualified or put down in some way,
their joy sours and their anger soars.
This is not to say that children don't need or won't respond to their
parents' expectations. They do and they will, regardless of whether those
expectations are good or bad. When those expectations are consistently bright
and positive and then are taught, modeled and expressed, amazing things happen.
"I see you made a mistake. And I know you are intelligent enough to figure out
what you did wrong and make a better decision next time." Or, "You've been
spending hours on that project, and I'd love to have you explain it to me." Or,
"We work hard for our money, and I know you can help figure out a way to pay for
what you want."
It's not enough just to say we love our children. In a time when frustration
has grown fierce, we can no longer afford to limit love's expression. If we
want to tone down the sound of violence in our society, we're going to have to
turn up the volume on noticing, praising, guiding and participation in what is
right with our children.
"No more buts!" is a clarion call for joy. It's also a challenge, the
opportunity fresh before us every day to put our attention on what is good and
promising about our children, and to believe with all our hearts that they will
eventually be able to see the same in us and the people with whom they will
ultimately live, work and serve.
And if I ever forget, I have my mother's note to remind me."