I’m not the most naturally affectionate or tenderhearted mother. As much as I do love my children dearly, it is hard for me to remember to show kids love like I ought. As far as Myers-Briggs typing goes, I am an INTJ, and one personality description I’ve read specifically calls out INTJ as not an ideal type for mothering.
But that’s where I am and I’m so thankful for it. It makes me own my faults and necessitates my growth. Motherhood is one of the best forges for sanctification.
So, as someone who is a compulsive list-maker and systematizer, but not a naturally affectionate type, I have a list to fall back on when I sense that I’m dropping the ball on communicating to my children that I love them and am so thankful to be with them day in and day out, even though it often feels like a madhouse.
To many of you, this might seem totally ridiculous and flabbergasting and cold and calculating, but it’s a way for me to cope and remember to show outwardly, at least a little bit, the warmth and love I really do feel for my progeny. INFPs and ISFJs and other Fs, you might want to cover your eyes and skip this post.
5 Ways to Keep the Kids’ Tanks Full of Affection
This is a list I’ve made a few times in a brain-dump sort of a way, but it’s not one I actually refer to or use, except for a short period of time when I was working on making sure these actually happened habitually and I wasn’t just assuming they were when I was actually caught up in my own head.
However, it’s not like it’s a checkbox sort of a list. :)
1. Smile into their eyes and give them a hug first thing in the morning.
Ok, well, for awhile not too long ago “Hug each child” was a checkbox on my command clipboard. I realized I was giving out 3-4 hugs each morning, but not necessarily 5. I didn’t want to unintentionally leave someone out, so I made sure I built the habit of hugging each child the first time I laid eyes on them in the morning.
2. Look at them when they talk to you, even if it’s to show you their millionth Lego creation.
Another habit I had to consciously cultivate: look at the child while talking, not mm-hmming while still looking at the computer screen or book page. Yes, then sometimes it definitely does feel like there’s no point in even trying to read or write – and when it feels that way, it’s probably because it’s true and I shouldn’t be trying to at that time.
In a good-faith effort, I’ve even been trying to find something specific to notice and mention with each drawing or Lego creation, which has felt like really going the extra mile and above the call of duty, but it’s actually probably more like just the call of duty.
3. Always say goodnight with hugs and well-wishes.
We don’t do elaborate bedtime rituals, but even small ones still do count for something (I hope). At the end of the day, often my interaction points are all used up. Still, a look into the eyes, a smile, a hug, a kiss, and a “good night” really isn’t so hard as it sometimes feels it will be when I’m heading up the stairs.
4. Request their help.
Kids like to be needed and help out in real ways. Somehow, this doesn’t translate into them liking to do their chores – go figure.
But if I can find a dinner-making job or carrying in groceries for me or buckling the baby into her carseat – and if I request it as politely as I wish them to talk to each other – and if I express gratitude and happiness when they chirp, “Ok!” and do it – then it’s relationship building.
Hm, maybe that would work for chores, too.
5. Make dumb jokes; extra points if its at your own expense.
A few years ago Rachel Jankovic and Mary Ostyn told me I needed a better sense of humor in my mothering approach. I’m glad I listened, even if I’m not nearly as good at it as they are. I am not good at being silly, but using humor (which, turns out, can be wry dryness but not biting sarcasm) is a good way to build camaraderie and team spirit – that is, a way to cultivate relationship.
Look at the bright side: Humor, at least, is better than emotionally charged heart-to-hearts. :)