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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Please Smile When You Say That

A true exchange between a 7-year-old and her Mama.

Grumpy tone, grumpy face, “I want a snack!”

“Try again, please.”

She rumbles, “Can I please have a snack?!”

“Try again, please.”

Can she be grumpier still? She growls, “Mommy, please give me a snack!”

I calmly smile and say, “Sweetheart, let’s try something a little different. Please smile for me when you say that.”

She stops. She stares at me. For a full minute. Or at least it seems like a full minute.

And then the corners of her mouth slowly turn up. And I see her precious front-toothless smile.

And I smile wider.

Her sweetest voice says, “Mommy,” she actually giggles, “May I please have a snack, please?”

“Of course you may, how can I refuse when you ask so sweetly?”

It’s the love language of smiles.

I admit it, ordinarily, I might have gotten annoyed and spoken as sharply as I was spoken to. But anger never calmed anyone down. Anger feeds anger.

Instead, I chose to love her instead of being affronted by her attitude.

And the instant I made that choice, I was divinely inspired and I knew what to say.

Ever have one of those wet, cold, miserable, blue days when you couldn’t seem to feel any spunk in your heart? Chances are you were wearing a black expression on your face to match the black mood on your heart.

Ever notice how hard it is to get out of a funk when you’re wearing a frown on your mouth and a crease in your forehead?

And harder still to ask for something nicely when you look like you’re ready to spit nails?

The grumble can always be heard behind the clenched teeth.

But it’s equally difficult to smile while yelling at someone. We simply can’t be grumpy and smile at the same time. Our hearts can’t seem to get around the paradox.

Our expressions reflect what is in our hearts. But they also reinforce what is in our hearts.

I get annoyed. I frown. I feel more annoyed. My forehead creases. I get mad. I yell. I snarl.

I don’t want to get mad, I don’t want to escalate the situation, one thing just seems to lead to another, doesn’t it?

Changing your feelings? That’s tough task. Our hearts can be so stubborn.

But wearing a smile on your face? That’s a little easier. Maybe just manageable. It’s far less of a challenge to move a few muscles than to move your heart.

The interesting thing is that our hearts can be led by what we do with our muscles. God, in his infinite wisdom, seems to have attached our facial muscles to our heart strings and made it easier for us to change our stubborn hearts just by changing what’s on our faces.

When I frown, or grimace (or snarl), I soon find my heart in the dumps.

When I smile, my heart wants to follow, it doesn’t want to be of two minds. It’s suddenly really hard to be mad.

And when I see my children smile, it’s nearly impossible to be mad.

If I can train myself to have a better attitude by training my face, I can encourage my children to adjust their attitudes by showing them how it’s done.

Now, if I can just remember in the heat of the moment to smile instead of grumble…maybe I should put yellow sticky notes on their foreheads that says “SMILE”…ya think?

What are your tips for encouraging better attitudes in your kiddos?

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Other posts you might enjoy:

On Parenting

In Childlike Wonder


  1. Great point! I want to be a kinder, gentler mama. It's hard to change old habits.

    I read something in a motivational book recently that I want to make our family motto. It was, "We are all on the same team,".

    Happy Mother's Day.

  2. It's very hard to change the atmosphere of what's going on around you if you can't change what's inside you first.

    I find that when I follow the example of what you presented here, I'm looking from a completely different perspective. I'm not emotionally engaged at all, yet still perceptive to what's really happening. It is SUCH a different feeling, isn't it? :)

  3. Oh wow- that was good!
    My line has always been, "I'm sorry, but I just don't understand you when you talk like that." But I think I like your line better.
    It was a very encouraging post, the Bible talks about a person's countenance, and how our countenance (expressions) can either be a witness and a light for the Lord or against the Lord. And kids def. immitate their parents, so this is a good reminder to be a smiling mom. :)


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