It makes me wonder if we could apply this to be more present…
I heard a woman telling a boy. No need to say, I cringed. The expressions “good girl!” “good boy!” or the “good job!” “great job!” statements directed to a child sometimes make me feel sick.
I tell you why: because for me “good boy” or “good job” are just plain attempts to show a positive attitude, some sort of positive input to encourage the receiver of this so-called compliment to carry on doing good.
In my view, when someone says to a girl “good girl” because she did something right is just an over used compliment. How about if instead of saying “good girl” we actually acknowledge what was done right in order to be judged “good”? How about if we say “Your drawing looks amazing! I like the way you used the yellow!” or “I’m so happy you helped to tidy up that corner of the room! Thanks to you it looks very nice”.
Instead of saying “good boy” or “great job” how about saying “Wow! Your homework looks great and I can tell you have put effort into it! I am looking forward to have a look at it”. Or how about saying “What you just did looks amazing!”.
I feel swapping the simple two-word expression for something a bit more elaborate, where it is mentioned what was done, compliment on a detail, it may make the receiver of this compliment feel more appreciated and cared for; it may make the giver focus 5 minutes of attention (even 2 minutes or perhaps 3!) on the result and be present, truly present in body and mind to give appreciation and acknowledgement instead of a bland “judgement” with a “great job” or “good boy”.
Believe me, the receiver will feel it – particularly if we are talking about children – and they will feel appreciated, not judged.
And this is a key word. Appreciation. When you give a child a compliment such as “ I like the way you coloured the flower” instead of “great job” “looks good!” you are showing the child you put enough attention to her work to notice the different colours; this showing of appreciation can open the gates for the child to start to tell you a story about a flower; or her interpretation of the colours; or may prompt said child to go and paint many more flowers.
And many more flowers will imply the child exploring how to mix colours, how to use the brush how to apply pressure on the paper, how to hold the brush and what happens when you mix all the colours. This is pure learning!
Or it may mean for that child that someone does look at her drawings and make her feel cared for. Which is equally important if not more than the physical and intellectual side of things.
When you ask a boy to tidy up and he does so and you acknowledge it with “I am grateful to you because you tidy up that corner and now it looks so much better” you are acknowledging the boy, the person, and the effort put into the task; you are showing you did put attention to what he has done, you did observed and you are appreciating him. It sounds so much richer and fuller than the bland “good boy” “great job” or “finally you did it”.
Shall I mention that chances are this boy will continue to tidy up to the best of his ability and it will do it perhaps even without being asked? Shall I start to list the amount of learning that goes into the tidy up? From spatial awareness to fine motor skills, you name it. Add to that he will feel appreciated, so a fabulous emotion is being nourished.
I feel we should start a revolution, erasing the bland two-word praise and replace it with a bit of presence and heart.
It is nearly three months since we moved to a new house. We run away from the city into the “countryside“ and I say it like this because it is a town surrounded by countryside with no airports ambulance corridors police cars wailing away screaming neighbours or the usual weekend drunks. So, it is countryside!
Although I feel somehow I may miss our locals – the guy who sang so loud you could hear him 50 yards away, my neighbour with his dog and his sick uncle, the security guy at the supermarket who knows my son since he was born (or even earlier than that!) the guys at the gates of the underground station…and that’s the beginning of a long list which was forged over six years.
I got to know the inhabitants of the gardens, saw many cubs become foxes how the parrots took over the trees and how the squirrels grew countless families and how each generation managed to munch through the kitchen window frame unsuccessfully and how my cats use to chase them when not laying down enjoying the sun on the window sills. I repaired and restored the patio and the front flowerbed to their former glory and tendered to the roses whom after a year of intensive care greeted me with beautifully full scented roses summer after summer.
I planted oaks from kernels, grew many holly trees and planted countless bluebells and I even have a yew tree which I grew from seed – which by the way is sitting in the patio on the new house.
That small flat was the silent witness of many sleepless nights when my son was born and the last resting place of one of my cats who finished her days in a cosmopolitan city just to follow her super cosmopolitan style.
Yes: the flat was small; half – if not all – of my stuff was on a storage space which cost me a small fortune every month not to mention how things were stacked up in the kitchen or how going outside to the patio was more of an expedition than a simple “open the door and go” like it is now, which in turn means endless hours outside enjoying the good weather and the liberty to say “let’s have dinner outside” with everything within 10 steps away from the kitchen.
This new house is big and spacious. It does have a patio with easy access and all the bedrooms are big and airy. The kitchen is simply BIG and it is so big there is a small table there where we had our meals every day until I managed to compose the dining room – that is, clear it from boxes and remnants from the move. We have again plants inside the house – almost one in every room! – and everything seems to be in place, seamless.
Today, as I am cleaning my computer archives – forced by the desperate need to find a document which remains elusive – I found many videos made in the old flat, and it felt like when you find a treasure because those memories are there somewhere in my brain but seeing them today was like “wow! Look at that” kind of thing.
The funny thing is that my son saw a frame of one video made in the old house. And he said “Home! Look, mummy, home!” and I did explain to him that now this was our new house and that was our old house. He kept saying that there was “home”. After put my son to bed and whilst doing the tidying up and leaving everything ready for the morning – whilst still cleaning my computer of course – I could not stop thinking on my little one thoughts and feelings about “home” mainly expressed by his facial expressions and his eyes together with words who only he understood.
And left me wondering if although we are well settled in this new house and everything is working “like clockwork” if we are really present in this house and we really took ownership of it – despite the fact that it is rented – as we did with the flat. Perhaps he feels the flat was home because he was born in it. Perhaps because we were living there for two years prior to his arrival we made that flat ours.
The flat – as this house – was technically a transitional place, where we would stay until we settled with our wandering lifestyle (travelling suitcases used to live outside the wardrobe and close to the door combined with very demanding jobs) so we did not consciously adopt the flat as ours. Then life happened and our son came along and of course we made the flat home – but always with that back thought that now more than ever we must settle somewhere we could call ours.
The question is – now that I re read the paragraph above – did we really made the flat home or did our son made the flat home? As soon as he started to crawl and leave a trail of toys, putting toys amongst books and arranging the kitchen cupboards to his liking – the ones at his level – he made the flat a home on his own particular way. And inevitably, we followed.
And yes, we were crammed…. but we made a home together as a family. Maybe it is time this time to give it a go, forget the fact that we may not be here next year and be more present, and enjoy every day and every inch of this new house as if it was always ours and make it home, pour the heart and *do* live in it.