As a writer, I’m criticized all the time. By editors, by other writers who know they could have said it better, by readers, and by those who didn’t even bother reading, but are pretty sure I’m wrong anyway.
As a mom, I am criticized all the time, too. This isn’t the kind of dinner I like. The bathwater is too hot. Ow, you’re pulling my hair! You skipped my favorite part of the story! Other kids’ parents do their homework for them… Now the bath water is too cold!
And, as a person, I… criticize way too much.
Because, let’s face it, it’s easier to go negative than positive.
Positivity requires effort and a sometimes arduous attempt to see the silver lining past any cloud. Negativity is knee-jerk, instinctive, cathartic, and… kind of fun.
Which was all well and good, until I noticed that it really seemed like my kids (ages 12, 8, and 5) didn’t know how to start or continue a conversation unless they were ragging on someone or something. Dissatisfaction was their default setting, and complaints stood in for communication.
And that is neither well nor good.
In my ideal world, our house is a No Whining Zone. I’m the kind of parent who, when a child comes to me to grumble, I counter with, “Don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution and we’ll figure out how to go about implementing it.”
But, what kind of example am I setting, if I’m not following my own advice?
Which is why, starting February of 2012, I’ve decided to Go Positive!
What does this mean? Well, so far it’s meant:
• Making a point of catching my kids being good, and complimenting them on it, rather than zeroing in on what they’re simultaneously doing wrong.
• Thanking my husband for completing a chore after I ask him (sometimes days after I first ask him), even if, deep down, I believe he should have thought of doing it himself.
• Not monologuing to anyone within earshot (literal and cyber) about why I don’t like the latest creative direction of a given TV show. If I don’t like it, I can just stop watching it.
• When I pass a photo or quote on Facebook or Twitter that’s just begging for a sarcastic response, I take a deep breath and move along. If I don’t have anything nice to say, I’m not going to say anything at all.
• Agreeing with people, because that’s all that anyone really wants when they ask for advice (odds are their mind was made up long ago). And it will make us all happier in the long run.
• Being grateful for each mistake I make, because now I know not to make it again. Chalking up every bad experience to an experience I’ve now had and thus hopefully learned from.
So. One week into the project, how’s it going?
Great! (See how positive I’m being!)
And now some honesty: Hard.
Being positive is very, very hard. But, I am resolved to put in the effort. I figure, even if I fail, I’ll at least be cognizant of all the times in my day when I slip and revert to my Cassandra Complex. And being cognizant is half the battle… isn’t it?
Yes! It positively is!
At worse, the change in attitude will be unnoticeable to everyone, including myself.
But, at best, maybe I can start breaking some habits that, truthfully, don’t make me particularly happy. And I can’t imagine they make my husband, kids, parents, or friends very happy, either.
I started this task because I felt I was doing a bad job modeling constructive behavior for my kids. Maybe if I can’t quite show them what a Purely Positive Mom is like, I could at least demonstrate one who really is trying her best to do better.