Dear Benchmark Parent,

I have an awesome relationship with my grocery checker. Her name is Marie. Even if there are two lanes open and one is ready to “take the next customer” while I wait in Marie’s line … I politely refrain from moving and wait for Marie. If you are lucky enough to find her when you shop, be kind to her and tell her I said hi! She is my grocery checker, my friend even, and she is AWESOME.

I grocery shop every Sunday morning, and for over two years now, Marie has been my most trusted Customer Service Representative. She is kind, a good bagger, has a wonderful smile, works hard, loves her daughter, enjoys spending time in her pool in the summer, and currently has a leak in her roof she is attempting to fix.

I TRULY appreciate Marie.

I do not flatter her with kind (empty) words of praise that mean little to nothing… and I don’t criticize her if she makes a scanning mistake in the checkout line or if she takes too long.

Over the years – I have come to appreciate her work ethic, her genuine care for my well-being and that of my family, and her kind, gentle spirit. And I tell her so! Every week I say thank you and let her know how glad I am to see her and how I sincerely am thankful for her contribution to my week.

CONFESSION: It is easy to appreciate Marie. I only see her once a week for about 10 minutes …

But what about my children?

… my husband?

… my friends?

… my co-workers?

That’s a much tougher cookie to swallow. It isn’t that I DON’T appreciate them… but I don’t take the time to say so.

I might on occasion flatter them with base chatter about how they lost weight, or I like their shoes, or hit “like” on their cute instagram…

but sincere, heartfelt APPRECIATION?

I know what you are thinking… It would be MUCH easier to appreciate them if they DID something worth appreciating!!!

Here is where the Shamu* technique from The Nurtured Heart Approach comes into play.

I am warning you … it takes PATIENCE, PERSISTENCE, and ON GOING INTENTION … so many of you may want to stop reading… because although you SAY you want a better relationship with your <<insert relationship here>>, and you want to see them succeed…. you don’t necessarily want to do the hard work to attain this relationship status and see them soar. (Truth sometimes hurts.)

For those of you who want to continue reading … here is my quick explanation of the Shamu Technique:

When Shamu jumps HIGH above the water making a magnificent splash everyone applauds and Shamu gets a treat.

But Shamu didn’t START OUT jumping high above the tank … he started by swimming over a rope at the bottom of the pool. Every time he went over the rope accidentally or otherwise, he received a treat, thus conditioning him to equate going over the rope with success/treat … over time the rope was lifted little by little from the bottom of the pool until it eventually reached high above the water and Shamu was performing a feat he never would have previously imagined doing.

So it is with our children (and others)…

I KNOW they don’t pick their socks up every time…

I KNOW they don’t put their dishes in the dishwasher every time…

I KNOW they don’t get their lunches packed without being told a gazillion times…

I KNOW, that THEY KNOW how to do these things and.yet.they. don’t DO THEM

I KNOW it is MADDENING ….

BUT…. did they get dressed independently? enter the room without yelling? eat their food without making a mess?

It may seem downright SILLY to TRULY appreciate a 13 year old for not needing to wear a bib when they eat… but maybe making it silly at first will help you remember …

remember that you truly DO APPRECIATE the things that they ALREADY DO…

and recognize these things EVERY.TIME.YOU.CAN…

…and at some point you will be thanking them SINCERELY for putting their dish in the dishwasher without being told… and you will be able to look back at how far you have come… and still be looking forward to the goals of where they are headed.

Q1. What is your “bottom of the pool” level of appreciation for your child right now?

Q2. Can you see the steps that it will take to get them “leaping out of the pool”?

Are you ready to be PATIENT, PERSISTENT, and give this effort your ONGOING ATTENTION?

Best of Luck – I am off to praise my 8-year-old for getting her own breakfast (instead of criticizing her for not remembering to get her assignment notebook signed… I will approach that with a gentle reminder.)

xo – The Original Benchmark Girl

*please note this post in no way implies that the author agrees with the containment of orca whales in unsuitable environments.

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