“I hate her!” she would shout at her younger sister.
“Why?” I would ask.
“She looked at me!”
It came as a bit of a shock when my middle child started exhibiting negative behaviour. She would lash out at everyone and lose her temper at the smallest thing. She was also demonstrating low self-esteem and would say things like, “I hate myself!” and “I wish I was someone else!”
I was wondering if my husband and I had been remiss about what we were saying in front of her. Or was the problem that we weren’t saying enough about her? To be fair, it is almost impossible for parents to be on their game with their children twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Once you have more than two children things are bound to get out of balance. The oldest one always demands more because they have had your undivided attention from day one. Then there is the youngest who receives more attention because they will be your last one. My middle child obviously needed more attention and words of encouragement. I wanted to do something to turn the tide, but I wasn’t sure where to start.
I was just finishing off a cup of warm, peppermint tea before bed, writing my “Mum to Do List” for the next day on a yellow sticky note when a sudden epiphany hit me. I decided there and then to write my middle child a positive message on one and put it where she could see it when she woke up in the morning. I thought this would cheer her up and put her in a good mood for the day. Being the “fair” mother that I am, I made one for each of my children so that no one would feel left out. Also, understanding that my three girls have different personalities and are at different ages I made the notes personalised. I felt that it was important to highlight their inner qualities, not outer beauty. Quite often people we meet are commenting on the girls’ external appearance and I wanted them to know how strong, smart, interesting and creative they all were.
Thinking about what to write was easy.
For my youngest I wrote, – ‘You give awesome hugs.’
For my middle child I wrote, – ‘You are an amazing artist.’
For my oldest child I wrote, – ‘You are a brilliant writer.’
When they woke up in the morning, they ran in to greet me with warm hugs and massive smiles. They were thrilled with their sticky note surprise. It was such a lovely response I continued to do it every day from then on. This note-writing was so easy, yet so powerful. I could see my six-year-old’s self-esteem changing and her confidence growing by the day. My other children were also waking up in better moods. Then the girls began writing them for each other, a knock-on effect that I had not anticipated. I could hear them squeal with delight as they read their positive comments to each other.
The middle child kept them all tucked into the slats of her bunk bed hanging down. One night when I tucked her into her bottom bunk, I suggested that she move them. She explained that if she moved them than she wouldn’t be able to read them all before she went to bed each night. She had her own personal affirmations each day, how perfect!
So, you can imagine my surprise when I came into my bedroom with my minted tea and saw three sticky notes on my pillow one night addressed to me and my husband. Each message had a positive comment about us. Even my four-year-old, who could barely write, drew a picture of us hugging with love hearts around it.
Who knew that this simple exercise would have such a positive effect? Suffice to say, sticky notes are now a staple item on our grocery list.