There’s a tried-and-true tip I’ve often heard from seasoned married folks, one of which is guaranteed to keep arguments fair, gentle and in-the-moment (rather than relying on cheap shots and past scripts), and it is simply this:
Avoid two words: (1) Always and (2) Never.
There are a few obvious reasons here, one of which being that neither of the above words are often true. Does your spouse really never do the dishes? Are you really always picking up dirty socks? Is your teen truly always on his phone? And so, as of late, I’ve made more of an effort to steer clear of these mounting exaggerations, certainly in an argument, but also in everyday language, and in my own self-chatter.
It has since, oddly enough, transformed my parenting.
It is no longer “You never finish your carrots!” or “You always forget your trains at your friend’s house!” and is instead, something a bit gentler, a bit kinder, a lot more true.
It is a small difference, the tiniest shift. But it makes for a giant space between frustration and exasperation, between correction and shame, between simple mistakes and complete failure.
It is surprisingly hard to do, leaving out the two words.
Last week, as we’re leaving for church, I’m snapping car seats and adjusting seat belts and re-buckling a shoe and starting the car when Bee announces she forgot her water.
Why do you always forget your water? flies out of my mouth, and before I can correct myself, the littlest voice in the back of the van reminds me not to say “always.”
(Sometimes, parenting is little more than training a 4-year-old to sound precisely like your conscience.)
Tell me: what small steps are you exploring these days? I’d love to hear!
p.s. These are a series of small steps that will (hopefully) provide one giant leap to greater things. Not for mankind, but for me, and perhaps for you, which will always be good enough in my book. More here.