If there’s ever a song you don’t want stuck in your head, it’s that Norwegian electronic dance song “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?).” I’ve been humming it in my head for almost a year now, since that first time one of my annoying teenage siblings — you know who you are — made me watch it on YouTube.
Because I do nothing but scatter sunshine in my children’s lives, I’ve also been singing “What Does the Fox Say?” to my kids pretty much nonstop.
Just the other day, I thought it would be fun to change the words and ask my kids “What does the Mommy say?”
I expected some sort of mushy response. You know, the Mommy says “I love you,” or “Have some freshly baked cookies,” or “It is my pleasure to get up at the crack of dawn every day in the summer to help you get to swim team you dear, sweet, little-boy bundles of joy.”
At least that’s what I thought the Mommy said.
Without missing a beat, my 6-year- old answered “What does the Mommy say?” with one word: “Punish.”
My 9-year-old followed up with: “Put your nose in the corner.”
I find this horribly unfair because I’m not much of a disciplinarian. Sure, I ground my kids for, like, a minute every now and then. And I do make the two older ones hug me and sing songs like “Love is Spoken Here” whenever they fight in my presence. But that’s as far as it ever goes. A mommy whose catchphrase is “Punish” just sounds like some villain in a bad ’80s cartoon.
The whole thing was just one of those silly moments in life that it’s easy to laugh off. But ever since then, I’ve been paying more attention to what I actually say to my kids.
Sure enough, there’s a lot of “Stop wrestling him,” “Stop cutting your sister’s bangs” and “Stop cooking those crayons in the microwave.” Like every parent with young kids, I’ve got a fair amount of bossing around to do if the trains are going to run on time and we’re ever going to safely leave the house. But that’s no excuse.
Children are the most impressionable and important people we will talk to in a day. They need to be showered with love, respect and kindness, ESPECIALLY by the people entrusted with their care.
So I’m trying to say these five things to my kids every day:
1. You are amazing because …
Every kid needs to know he’s great, and exactly why. Instead of vague “greatest kid ever” compliments, I’m trying to pick out specific things my kids do right during the day and acknowledge them.
2. Yes …
It’s easy to say “no” on autopilot: “No, you cannot wear your bathing suit and a Batman cape to the grocery store,” “No, you can’t waste a dollar of my hard-earned money on those rigged claw-machine games by the checkout line.” Of course “No” is the appropriate response in these situations, but sometimes it’s best to pause and see if a “Yes” would also work. Sometimes it’s worth shopping with a superhero or blowing $1 on a three-second game in order to save the “No” for something important.
3. No, and here’s why …
So you said yes to the Batman cape and are $1 poorer. Next time, you can say: “No, I’m not going to buy you that Lego set at the grocery store just because you happen to be shopping with me today. As a family, we are trying to save our money for important things like nice vacations and having our family members’ faces carved into ‘G’ Mountain.” Telling your kids “No” is just as important as saying “Yes,” but it’s much more effective when it comes with an explanation.
4. I’m sorry …
I make a million mistakes each day as a parent, and I’m trying to give my kids a sincere, heartfelt apology whenever it’s called for. I’ll say it when I lose my temper and raise my voice, and also when I get some dumb Norwegian electronic dance song stuck in everyone’s head. Especially when I get some dumb Norwegian electronic dance song stuck in everyone’s head.
5. I love you …
To the moon and back, more than million Chik-fil-A crinkle cut fries, forever and ever, Amen. There are a million ways to say these three little words, and I’m claiming them as my own.
That way, if it’s ever in question again: Dog goes “woof”/Cat goes “meow”/Bird goes “tweet”/And Mom goes … wait for it … “I love you (and please stop cooking those crayons in the microwave!)”.