Years ago, when Alfs was small, we were away for the weekend with a group of college friends. The wife of one of our friends, whom I did not know well, said to me, “It’s so nice to see someone else raising a gentle boy.” That moment of parenting validation has stuck with me all these years.
We don’t validate one another enough, I think. We get so wrapped up in our own parenting – and defending our own parenting – that we fail to notice what others are doing right. And wouldn’t it be nice to be noticed for that sometimes? Wouldn’t it be nice to be acknowledged for what you are doing right?
So here’s the challenge: notice and mention excellent parenting to a mom.
Take time to notice
Sometimes “moments to notice” parenting slaps us in the face, and sometimes they are far more subtle. In my experience, the less than ideal parenting (in my opinion) is what is obvious, and the really good parenting is quieter and almost invisible.
The next time you are in a group situation, stop for a moment and look around. What is obvious and what is less than obvious? Perhaps another mom is struggling to manage a situation; of course you empathize with that. You’ve been there, too! But what about the mom who is quietly reinforcing a positive behavior? Or who skillfully negotiates a difficult situation? Or something else?
Take time to say something
Now is the tricky part: saying something, and in a timely manner. It sounds so easy, but in practice can be hard. You may think you sound goofy – at least I think I sound goofy – but say it anyway.
It’s as simple as saying, “Sarah, you are so good at helping Janey negotiate sharing.” Really that simple. If you want to elaborate and talk more about it, fine. But the main point is that you give the compliment as directly and clearly as possible.
You never know what will happen when you give a compliment. If it’s someone you don’t know well, a closer friendship may develop. If it’s someone you do know well, you might be able to have a deeper conversation and learn some parenting techniques for yourself.
That woman who complimented me? Several years later, I saw that same woman again. In the course of conversation, I told her how her compliment had stuck with me and how much I appreciated that she noticed. She didn’t remember that she said it, but said the appreciation went both ways – she appreciated that I held on to her kind words and let her know. We agreed that there wasn’t enough such kindness and appreciation in the world and we were glad we could do it for each other. We still aren’t close friends due to geography, but when we do encounter each other, we have a nice little bond we share.