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One of my boys’ favourite books to read was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.
We read that damn book every night for weeks until I could almost recite it in my sleep. I know kids love routine and repetition, but this pushed even my wide boundaries of okayness.
I digress as my mind wanders back to when my young sons cuddled up after bathtime, smelling of soap and baby shampoo; their little bodies wrapped in their favourite pj’s, and their sweet little boy trust and love ready to listen to their nightly storytime. Ah, those beautiful moments we, as parents, live for.
Honestly, as someone who’s been there, these memories and moments are crucial to help us survive the days that are filled with tantrums, kids who won’t nap, and food—that was fine yesterday—being hurled on the floor in fury and disgust.
Seriously, it was tempting to put them up for sale on eBay some days—I didn’t actually do it, but I sure thought about it. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it, too, on those days you wish were over by 10 a.m.
One night, after a truly lousy day, my boys said they didn’t like that day at all because it was yucky.
It was at that moment I remembered that book we had read for weeks.
I said, “You know what, you’re right; it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” to which both boys nodded.
“And you know what?” I added, “I have a secret to tell you…You never, ever have to do this day again. Tomorrow is a brand new day that you can choose to make as awesome as you’d like.”
And off to sleep, they went.
It wasn’t until later that evening that it clicked. I was teaching my boys a valuable skill that would stick with them for the rest of their lives. I was teaching them that crappy days happen, but we don’t have to carry them with us—we can leave them behind and move forward with a fresh attitude and start anytime they choose.
That night reminded me of something I learned in a course I took required by licensing for my daycare: even if a child has had a day from hell, filled with tantrums, screaming, and taking toys, find something positive to say about them.
One time, someone said to me, “Oh, I’d tell them nice breathing.” Are you kidding me? Nice breathing? I lost it.
Instead, why can’t we say something like, “Wow, that was a really hard day for you, and I bet you’re glad it’s over. I’m happy that tomorrow is a fresh, new day that can be way better.”
Why did we have to search for something to praise when the entire day had wrung everyone out?
What’s wrong with letting children understand that some days are tough, and that’s okay?
Why can’t we teach them that they have the power to change their thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes by allowing them to experience all their emotions and guiding them through them rather than sugar-coating their lives?
Heaven, help them when they hit the big bad world that, honestly, won’t care a fig about their emotional well-being where they’re left bewildered and lost because no one told them “nice breathing today.”
It is our job as parents to support our kids as they grow—to guide, teach, and allow them to feel age-appropriate consequences so they can learn better decision-making as adults. This allows for emotional resilience and the ability to bounce back from everything that went “wrong” in their days.
We’re not raising kids; we’re raising future adults.
Keep this in mind as you continue to raise your children: to be the adult you know they can be. It’ll stand you in good stead. I know it did for me.