It’s like the world is in fast-forward. We rush rush rush and we forget, sometimes, to give feedback and, yes, accolades. In general, but most importantly to those who we love and who deserve it most. We forget that sometimes a verbal pat on the back and acknowledgement is reason enough to keep trying. We forget that everybody likes to have their effort noticed. So, think about two key roles that you play – parent and partner – and a few comments for each that might be nice to hear. Remember these same comments when you look at your own partner. Start the conversation yourself, and give them a well-deserved and hard-earned pat on the back. They will appreciate it as much as you might.
As a parent:
1. “I admire the way you are connecting with (insert name of child here). You’ve really made an effort to share with (insert activity here) with them and I really believe (child’s name here) appreciates it."
This is an especially poignant comment should the activity be especially dreaded (e.g. practicing recorders together), or time-consuming (e.g. being the parent on call to help build the 800+ piece lego creation with said child).
2. “I appreciate the fact that you are striving to eat (insert healthy food option here). You are setting an excellent example for our kids to follow, and I think watching you make that smart food choice is going to help reinforce healthy eating habits later. This is a great long-term thing for you and for your family.”
At our house, one of the adults despises tomatoes. He curbs his hatred and distrust of the poor maligned fruit, bites his tongue (mostly) and has allowed the kids to develop their own taste for tomatoes. And they love them! Kids are little sponges and if they see mom or dad curling their lip at a food, they will be much more likely to avoid the food, too. Monkey see, monkey do.
3. “I love watching you with our kids. It brings me great joy.”
No explanation necessary.
4. “I was chatting with the neighbor, and you know what she was saying? She really admires how you (insert parenting skill) so well. They really like that you do that with our kids; I appreciate that you do (again, skill here) with our kids, as well.”
Folks, we like our effort to be noticed, right? We like when other people see things we do well, and note them. We like it even better when it isn’t just (“just”) our partner in crime/parenting, but also people outside our little home sphere. How awesome is it that other people notice how great of a parent you are? See, you rock! Everyone knows it. Kudos for you.
5. “Can you teach/show me how you (skill here)? I would really like to be able to do that as well as you do.”
Really? Someone – another adult, no less – feels like they can learn from me? Talk about an ego boost! We all have our skills. We all have amazing things we do. Other things we perhaps don’t do quite as well. It doesn’t hurt to acknowledge that your partner can do something really well; and it is an even nicer complement to tell them that you not only admire how they do something, you would also like to learn how to do it as well as they do.
6. “I really love our kids, and I love the time we have together as a family. I think it would be good for us to spend time together just the two of us, too. How about a lunch date?”
Quality family time is important, absolutely. Quality couple time is important, too. Time together to connect as adults is key to keeping your relationship forward.
As a partner:
1. “Thank you for helping me organize (xyz). This has been something I have been meaning and trying to do for a while, and I just wasn’t able to get motivated to focus and do it. I really appreciate your time, and I’d be happy to help you (insert their dreaded task here).”
Four hands are better than two when it comes to completing a task. Plus, company while doing something you’d really rather not do helps make the task a bit more bearable, right?
2. “I appreciate your taking the time to get me (whatever). I know it was something extra and not exactly on your way. I know you are busy, and I know you could have done something else with that time so I appreciate that you were thinking of me and did that.”
Who doesn’t like to know that their effort and time is valued? Everyone, right? And sure, especially if your spouse is a stay-at-home spouse, they might have a little more time, but let’s not forget how many tasks can come together for those at home, especially if little people are involved; a stay-at-home spouse is hardly ever still, hardly ever on their own time, and hardly ever not multi-tasking. A stay-at-home mom is not bonbon-eating by the pool side, that is for sure! The same sentiment goes for your spouse/partner who works, or perhaps is your partner in parenting but not in marriage. There's no need to belittle someone's effort, especially when that effort is beneficial for you. They’ve taken the time to do something nice for you. Say thank you.
3. “I appreciate that you noticed how much I needed a break, and encouraging me to (insert self-care activity here). I really needed it, and I was so reluctant to gift myself that time. I feel much better having had the chance to do that for myself.”
Being a parent is hard work, and while we love (L.O.V.E) the job the majority of the time, sometimes the endlessness of the tasks becomes trying. And daunting. Unfortunately, we are also the least likely to do something for ourselves, especially when kids are young and demand much more of our time, effort, and attention. The result is a tired, impatient and cranky parent. Taking time is not a bad thing at all; giving someone permission to take that time can be a gift, though, and will be much appreciated.
4. “You look really nice. I’ve noticed that you’ve been working out regularly/wearing more blue/getting your nails done/lost weight/gained muscle/got a haircut/etc…”
People like being noticed, especially by their favorite person. People like when their effort in their own appearance is noticed. Remember what it is like when you have a new little one, and it was all you could do to take a shower and take the elastic out of your hair. We’ve all been there, and know what it can be like. We’ve all had those moments when it just seems like more effort than it is worth to do anything other than slap on another layer of deodorant and call it good. If your favorite big person is making an effort, acknowledge it. Appreciate it.
5. “I love that we are together. I love that we mesh our skills so well. I love that we are experiencing this life, this parenthood, this partnership together. I can’t wait to see what else we get to do together.”
Again, no explanation necessary.
Take the time to say the words your partner - your very most favorite big person - wants to hear. It's not so hard to say these words of appreciation. And, the more you do it, the more it will become a habit. Appreciation all around! That's a good thing.