Attitude Enhancement

It is truly remarkable how easy it is to slip into a household of negativity around here.  Add in a four-day Thanksgiving break and lots of family togetherness and our home was beginning to implode with pessimism, complaining, whiny responses, and a cloud of negative thoughts and attitudes.  Our home life started to feel toxic.  Something had to give.

My husband and I talked it through and decided on a plan yesterday morning.  We needed to get back to routines, back to a schedule.  With a family of seven, there is no other way.  We have to organize our time or else too many people are going in too many directions and someone gets lost in the mix.  Bedtimes suffer, sleep suffers, and then we are a total mess.  Schedules are like the skeletal frame of the day.  From there we build on the fleshy, meaty parts, but the skeleton has to be in place in order for the family body to function well.  We were going to have to get back to more schedules and better structure.

After school, the kids came home and I brought out our wipe board with the afternoon schedule.  The routine was one we had established back at the start of school, but had somehow lost in the few months following.  I prepared myself for backlash, but rather than hearing whining, I saw relief.  Mom was in charge, they didn’t have to fight for control, and my expectations were clear.  Our afternoon played out beautifully and our interactions were for the most part harmonious.  More than anything, I felt better and more on top of things, which started to turn the tide of my negativity.  Part one, check!

The warm fuzzy jar, working its magic yet again

Part two involved an old family favorite–the warm fuzzy jar.  It’s a simple little device made up of an old mason jar, a few stickers, and a slew of fuzzy pom poms.  It’s effect, though, is always monumental.  It takes all the pessimism and turns it around to the positive.  Here’s how it works: I look for acts of kindness, goodness, charity among my children.  For every good little thing, they earn a pom pom in the jar and a full jar means a reward for the family.  The kids can also let me know if they see a sibling showing kindness (but we discourage boasting of personal triumphs).  It really is so simple, but in one evening, I can vouch for its effectiveness.  I saw whining turned toward encouragement.  The complaining quieted.  Hugs and tenderness were felt.  Our home tipped back on the scales toward realness and not so heavily weighted toward negativity.  We were all happier, especially Mom!  Part two, check!

With every day I live, I am more and more convinced that attitude is everything.  When we wake up each morning, we have a choice how we are going to live that day.  Will we be frustrated or sad?  Or will we rise above and make it positive?  Even more, we need to tap into the Father to really find true happiness.  If our peace is not rooted in Him, it will quickly fall and pass away.  He is our lifeline and in Him do we find strength to take the next step, implement the schedule, bring out the warm fuzzy jar…

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.”  Philippians 4:8

God bless as we press on toward Advent!

  • Kellie “Red”

    Love that jar! Great idea and nice post.

  • Hannah

    Love the warm fuzzy jar – but am wondering how you “discourage boasting of personal triumphs.” I struggle with a few of my kiddos who seem unable to grasp this concept – would love to learn how the builders handle this.

    • Bethany “B-mama”

      Thanks Hannah. Discouraging pride is tricky because half the words out of my mouth are intended to praise and build up my children. It is not uncommon to hear one of my children say “I am really good at ____.” I’m glad they are discovering their personal strengths, but my goal is to help them use their gifts to build confidence not pride. Pride is boastful and puts others down, so I try to encourage them toward quiet confidence–”yes, you are good at ____ and can feel confident in your abilities, but it is not nice to talk out loud about your strengths”. Concerning the jar, the last thing I want is for the kids’ actions to be disingenuous. I don’t want my oldest to give a hug to his little sister and them come tell me about it for a warm fuzzy. I want the hug to be real and for the others to notice their big brother’s kindness. I do not reward warm fuzzies for them telling me of their personal kindnesses. I want them to learn to see it in others. Great question! I still have a lot to learn parenting in this area!

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/buildingcathedrals Katrina

    Bethany, this is so true, and Mom has such a big influence on the attitude of the rest of the family! When I look at people who are in the later years of their lives, I find that what separates the happy from the unhappy is not money or situation. Rather, it is attitude. Those who have been able to react with gratitude and humility are happy; those who have let bitterness take over are very unhappy, and make all of those around them unhappy as well – their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. I want to be a happy, sweet old grandma, and the attitude that I have now will determine whether or not I get there!
    I love this jar – how do you ensure that you keep up with it? My trouble with these things is that we go strong for a couple of days and then they sit on a shelf collecting dust!

    • Bethany “B-mama”

      Katrina, we are the same way starting new things and having them fade into the background. A way to remedy that is to make the warm fuzzy jar effective for a period of time–maybe a week or two weeks? Perhaps it could be part of your family’s Advent this year? Having an end date keeps things fresh. Store it away and then bring it back when your family needs an attitude facelift.

      Also, making sure you are rewarding the kids regularly for kindnesses is key to keeping it current. I found myself being stingy with the pom pons last night but then reminded myself that these are GOOD things and so I need to be especially generous when handing out the fuzzies! What’s an extra ice cream treat going to hurt, right?! If my oldest completes his homework quietly without whining, well, that’s an awesome accomplishment for him–warm fuzzy! If my children clear their plates without being asked, that’s a kindness toward me–warm fuzzy! It’s all positive and it’s all good.

  • maryalice

    Warm fuzzies have been helping us a lot since we started this last week – I think that the best part is that I notice how often they are kind to one another. Usually, I would just notice and respond to the unkind words. I do think that the number of kind words and deeds is increasing in my house, and that it will be habit forming.

    I agree that these sorts of things are best if temporary. We are just going to fill the jar one time, and then put it away for a while.


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