Are You 100% Positive?

Even the sweetest kid can be a Snarkity McSnarkle Pants sometimes. It’s just expected. We may roll our eyes and move on or try to correct the attitude. Sometimes we just lock ourselves in the bathroom with some lemon bars and a good book while they snark themselves into exhaustion.

For the past several months Laylee has been experiencing a lot of angst. To an extent I think it’s normal. Like Magoo’s recent too cute PMSing over every little thing, I think it’s mostly just a stage. But then there’s this little part of me that wonders if I’m raising a cranky little pessimist. I’ve tried all kinds of “techniques” to help get over the problem and honestly there’s been a lot of improvement.

I’ve tried being more attentive to her before she gets bent out of shape and we’ve helped her overcome most of her perfectionist tendencies. Beneath her sweetness, there’s still this smoldering frustration and worry that she carries around to an extent that I don’t think is healthy for a 4-year-old. She should be happy and fairly care free and not so quick to anger.

So on Sunday I was fasting, as members of my church are wont to do on the first Sunday of the month. We go without food and pay special attention to our prayers and devotion to exhibit our faithfulness to God and our willingness to put physical things aside and let the spiritual take center stage. Honestly I frequently have a super hard time putting the physical completely aside when my stomach is yelling in my face, but I understand the reasoning behind the practice and I’ve had a few wonderful experiences.

Anyway, I decided to dedicate my fast to asking my Heavenly Father for help with Laylee and her sadness/frustration/angst/snappishness. As I was kneeling down to pray, the words were not fully out of my mouth when my prayer was interrupted by the clear thought, “You need to be more positive.”

“Okay,” said I, “Thank you for that. Now about Laylee. Please help me to figure– ”

The thought came again only stronger, “You need to be more positive and watch the kind of things you talk about in front of her. On the phone. To your friends and Dan. Your negativity and pessimism are getting to her. If you change this, she will be changed.”

I was sort of taken aback. My fast had just begun and I hadn’t even completed my prayer and I was already getting an answer to my question though not the answer I wanted to hear. I think of myself as a fairly positive person but when I really thought about it, I could remember way too many conversations where I was critical, overly dramatic in a negative way or “humorously” sarcastic. Kids don’t get sarcasm. They hear mommy being mean to someone and they just feel the negative vibe.

So I talked to Dan and “we’re” working on it although honestly he doesn’t have much to work on. It’s hard to stop because it’s such a habit when I’m chatting on the phone to just be flippant or gloom and doomy. I’m actually annoyed by myself.

The key for me really is to try to think positive thoughts and try to speak in a more positive way even when I don’t think the kids are listening. It’s not like I have a switch I can flip on and off. It’s something I need to work on consistently.

So yesterday was the third day of this new plan and it shows just how much work I have to do. I’d been pretty positive all day, trying to get the kids excited about the world around them, a regular Pollyanna run amok, but with more personality. As we were driving to the grocery store, we were exclaiming over the beauty of the clouds and the sky and OH MY! Isn’t that the neatest thing? I really started getting into the spirit, caught up in their enthusiasm for the beautiful sunset. I felt for a moment that no one could be as lucky as I, two beautiful children, a great marriage, a lusciously cloudy Seattle sunset and a trip to the grocery store. What could be better?

Fast forward an hour as the kids had lost their minds and I wasn’t far behind. We made it out of the store alive only to have all kinds of rioting break out upon entrance to the van. They’d been picking at each other all through our shopping, as if to say, “ARE YOU INSANE TO TACKLE GROCERY SHOPPING AT LOSING OUR MINDS O’CLOCK IN THE EVENING??!!”

When they got into the van, their quarelling became unmanageable and so I turned the stereo up to eleven to block out the noise and proceeded to drive home. When Laylee confronted me about hurting her ears and giving her a possible “ear affection,” I told her that next time she could plug them but that since I was driving I couldn’t plug mine to block out their fighting and loud music was the next best thing. I guess if she really doesn’t like the music then next time I can just yell repeatedly “SERENITY NOW!!” at the top of my lungs.

“Oh,” she said. “Hmph.”

Oh hmph indeed. We glared each other down and I vowed to be more positive today. And I was. We’ll see about tomorrow. Baby steps.

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30 Responses to Are You 100% Positive?

  1. pokeyann says:

    Oh the joy of not being “perfect” and turning around to see your child watching you so seriously. I’ve been stopped in my tracks more than once for not being positive and giving my Little Dude the wrong impression of life and such. Good luck! You’re a great mom to want to look for answers and then follow the advice when it comes.

  2. Thia says:

    Is there a mom who doesn’t love a bathroom with a lock? I just need some of those lemon bars. Escapism aside, I know this is something we’ll deal with here too. It’s much easier to be doom/gloom than pollyanna.

  3. I have had to really watch my attitude around my daughter too. I resort to sracasm a lot, and she really doesn’t need to hear that. The hard part for me is that most of my family is really sarcastic, and I have to remind them to please not talk like that around her because she really thinks we’re being mean. Sigh.

  4. grammyelin says:

    Hang in there. It will get better the longer you do it. Any time you try to change a child’s behavior (even if you’re doing it by modifying your own) they will get worse for a little while, just to see “if you really mean it”. It won’t take them long to be walking on the sunny side of the street. Bless you for helping them to do it. You’ll all be happier. I’m proud of you.

  5. jenn says:

    hm ok my comment didnt show… I think I tend to get negative more on the phone with a real ADULT, or with my husband because i have to release what im feeling during the day, since im home with two small children. I think we all get this way.. our frustrations come out to someone who will listen and understand, and in return our kids pick that up. Hang in there, it will get better, there will be many trials and tribulations along the way, but the outcome will be fantastic. The grocery store is my hardest time, my kids bicker, and do the “i want that” for 30 minutes and the ride home is excrutiating! your not alone, i think we as parents do this because its out only outlet, and we dont mean for it to effect our kids, it just happens. I too have tried to be more positive, its hard, but so worth it in the end!

  6. I tend to use self-deprecating humor and have to really watch myself and the words that come out of my mouth. My kids are not only watching, but emulating all the bad things I do and only half of the good. Prayer is an unceasing event in our house. 🙂

  7. allysha says:

    this happens to me. especially as a mom. I plan to do and be (do-be-do-be-do) better and at the end of the day I feel like I did a face plant into the mud puddle I was gracefully leaping over.
    I think this is an important thing to work on. We (I) need to work on gratitude around here…
    Good luck!

  8. Vee says:

    What a fantastic revelation you received! My son once told a friend who inquired about how he was doing after a time of loss that he’d be okay when his mom was okay. That’s always reminded me to work harder on my outlook. Thank you for sharing so honestly. I really think that this post will be a great help to other parents.

  9. Rebecca says:

    I’ve given up on locking the bathroom door because otherwise the kids just stand outside and wail and pound on it. Yeah.
    Parenthood is full of these hard moments – and then suddenly, they are resolved. Hang on.

  10. Margaret says:

    YOU CAN DO IT! After some experiences with negative talk at the beginning of my mission, I decided that I wasn’t going to say anything negative about wards, companions, other missionaries – anything! It wasn’t easy, but I really found that it IS possible to train ourselves in that way. What I found was that if I wasn’t going to SAY negative things then I couldn’t even THINK negative things, so I had to SHOVE them out of my mind the second they came in. And it works! You really, honestly, 100% can TRAIN yourself. It’s a pretty nice habit, I must say.

    (And then, after working on that SO HARD during the mission, I remember coming home and thinking, “YAY! Now I don’t have to … think … all positive thoughts anymore…” lol)

  11. The Wiz says:

    The Optimistic Child by Martin Seligman. Go get this book now. Also, Learned Optimism. It will change the way you talk to her, talk to yourself, talk to others. It is fabulous. Drop what you’re doing and go the library/bookstore RIGHT NOW.

  12. Abby says:

    When you are on the straight and narrow to positive-ville, I am sending my #1 to your boot camp.
    Until then i am going to start chanting “Serenity now”.

    I love you more and more each day.

    In all seriousness this has opened my eyes a bit to my own dark side. thank you

  13. Wendy says:

    Well, for starters, you’re outnumbered.

    Some days, it’s like they are possessed or have several personalities, and you don’t know which one is going to be showing up.

    I think that old commercial is good advice, “Never let them see you sweat.” Much easier said than done.

  14. Slawebb says:

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one. My 5 yo dd is the same way. Sometimes I think the smarter they are the harder they are to raise. I have problems staying positive. My 2 yo dd is now learning the negativism from the older one, and let’s not exclude me. So I’ve been reading a new book that helps me with the discipline part of it, because let’s face it, I can’t let snarky just keep going. Anyway, the book is called “Parenting Young Children: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Children Under Six” by Don Dinkmeyer Sr, Gary D. McKay, and James S. Dinkmeyer. Our school has a class at the beginning of the year that teaches from this book. I didn’t get to go to the class this year but a friend did and she said it was great. Here’s a web site to look at too. The teacher of the class has it. It’s full of great info. and this one Hope it helps and thanks for sharing. I really needed the pick me up.

  15. Good stuff. I’ve been wondering about this same thing. Hubs and I can both be pretty sarcastic, and I see our kids picking it up. Sometimes I think it’s helping them form a good sense of humor. And sometimes I think it makes them so darn cheeky I want to WIPE THE LITTLE SMIRK OFF THEIR FACES.

  16. bananas says:

    Very insightful. CJ has been a Snarkity McSnarkle Pants himself of late, and I’ve been at my WITS END trying to figure out what to do about it. Maybe I’ll try being a better person. Deep. 😉

  17. It is amazing that you wrote this post today. I’m working on this exact same thing with my 5 year old daughter right now. It is hard, yes?

    And yesterday I turned up the car stereo really loud to down out the whining/tantrum of my 2 year old. Glad to know I’m not the only one who has resorted to this tactic.

    (P.S. My husband sometimes opens the windows to “let some of the sound out of the car” when the kids are so noisy…. hehehehe!)

  18. Nicole says:

    Even Pollyanna would need some lemon bars and a good hiding place after going to the store at losing our minds o’clock.

  19. Qtpies7~ says:

    I went through, am going through, somethign similar. I wrote a post about it, too. Chidren are God’s mirror to show us how we REALLY look. (or sound, or act) It is painful looking in a mirror sometimes.
    I find when I am lecturing a child on attitude I end up a mite convicted myself.

  20. Emily says:

    That does sound hard. But how nice that God gave you such a clear direction!

  21. Brooke says:

    So I have a litttle boy who is 4 and lately he has a LOT of attitude and is rude and bossy to gis il sis. Reading this story put it allllll into perspective! He gets it from us and we have to be better to show him how to be nicer.

    Oh – and I loooove how you said …LOOSING OUR MINDS O’CLOCK IN THE EVENING??!! That is the funniest!!! (and very true!)

    Thanks for the laugh!

  22. Sketchy says:

    Sometimes its tough having to be the grown up. But like so much about motherhood if you don’t do it, it probably won’t ever get done. I love that you are trying to take this one on.

  23. Rachel H says:

    Obviously you’ve struck a cord with just about every parent of young child on the planet- and It sounds like you are on the right track. I was “caught” one day by my DD whilst making “fun” of Dora to my friend, and now she totally usaes the EXACT same phrase to sarcastically talk about Dora. I was shocked at her observantness! It certainly made me think twice about what I say in front of my kids! Children seem to reflect our imperfections in ways we rather them not!

    I am totally with you on the path to becoming more positive, patient, and a good example overall! My mom always used to quote the scripture, “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Small and Simple, and slowly but surely!

  24. Kids can pick up on the slightest shift…even non-verbal. I posted about this a while back, wallowing in my mommy-guilt. You can read it at
    My hubs and I are pretty sarcastic, opinionated people (but nice ones, too!) and we’ve tried to watch it a little more since our little one is turning into a little mimic. Even good parents goof!

  25. Debbie says:

    That post rang very true for me.
    Sometimes when I re-read my very own blog, I hear a sarcastic cynicism in there that I didn’t even know I had. I’m sure I do that in my conversations, too. It’s something I need to address.
    Thanks for the post…it’s woken me up!

  26. KYouell says:

    I know that I should really like the good, observant parenting tips you laid out, but I already know what a mimic our son is and not to take the kids to the store at losing our minds o’clock — and, frankly, I expect you will write about those things in a hilarious way. I came back and read this twice because of the answered prayer. You wrote about it so well I could *feel* it myself. No wonder you got such a swift and powerful answer because, apparently, lots of us need it. Next time my hubby asks me if I’m reading another mommy blog I’ll tell him I’m listening for God. 😉

  27. I guess I’m lucky. My wife is one of those happy, positive people 90% of the time. She started working on me to pay attention to how and what I say long before Baby Dumpling arrived and she still reminds me when I forget. I think the untraining will be the hardest for you like it is for me. Just remember you cannot climb the mountain in 1 step and sometimes you need to go down in order to go up but in the end you’ll see sights you never thought existed.
    What a concept, humor without sarcasim.

  28. Heather O. says:

    I second The Wiz’s comment about that book by Martin Seligman, “The Optimistic Child”. It has drastically changed how I parent, how I talk, how I feel about things. The other night, I burned dinner, which threw me into all kinds of existential home-makery angst, y’know, the kind that brings a momma to tears. I knew things were okay when my son said, “Mom, sometimes life is just like that. It’s okay.”

    Seriously, ya gotta get this book, and you will be amazed. Truly amazed. It also talks about how you can immunize your child against dpression later in life, which, in this day and age, can be huge.

  29. Julie Q. says:

    Amazing what a little starvation will do to pierce through the clouds of confusion. I’m one who needs to work on the negativity too. Kids are so much more perceptive than we think.

  30. sheena says:

    I tend to get in a pessimistic perfectionist rut too often and I have come to realize that it is from too much work and not enough play. Sometimes instead of trying harder to be happy it is easier to turn on music, dance silly, tell dumb jokes, tickle my grumpy children, and basically be rebellious and weird until the those negative times have faded. Sometimes it’s okay to just plain get mad and fed up too and let it show….it might help the little ones realize it’s okay to not be perfect also. I have six perfectionists and they remind me in their actions sometimes that life has become too rigid. So, I turn into the idiotic weirdo I truly am until they are goofing off themselves and joining in the fun. Laughter I believe cures many things…at least around this place! Now if I could just find something funny about all of this flu and colds we keep having! any ideas?

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