01/06/2014 11:13 am ET Updated Mar 08, 2014

Life-Giving Parenting

My husband, Frank, has quite a wise way of measuring his words and actions. He frequently queries himself: "Is this "life-giving?" If the conversation or activity doesn't measure up to his litmus test of creating or supporting life, he will do his best to hold his tongue or prevent his behavior. I find this manner of guiding oneself to be refreshingly simple.

It is with my husband's example in mind that I resolve to use words that are "life-giving" this year. I intend to converse with my children in a life-supporting fashion. I endeavor to use language that enhances their lives rather than damages their spirits. This is the type of resolution that I gravitate toward; it is one that I can recommence if I fail. On the occasions that I succeed, I have changed my parenting and my children for the better.

Examples of life-giving words to my children are:

  • You are going to make a great husband someday!
  • I want to make you breakfast because before long you will be away at college and I will miss this loving action.
  • No matter what you do, I will NEVER stop loving you.
  • I am so blessed to be your mother.
  • The table is set in a formal way because it is my way of showing that I love you.
  • I never dreamed I'd have a son like you!
  • Thank you for reminding me of our family commitment to maintaining a peaceful
  • You are right; I should have thought before I used those critical words.
  • I notice the lovely things you do when you think I'm not looking.
  • Your poetry means so very much to me. I am so fortunate to have a son who pens poetry for his mother.

There is definitely a caveat here. As parents, we can't always be positive, but we can use positive techniques. Sometimes being life-giving means helping our kids to learn a lesson. A change in troublesome behavior can favorably modify a child's character.

It is recommended that parents use favorable techniques to discipline their children. Professors from Purdue University remind us, "The original Latin word related to discipline... means to "educate," especially in matters of conduct." They advise parents to show children the behaviors they expect, look for the roots of misbehavior and work to ameliorate problems, among other positive techniques.

World-renowned psychologist John Gottman found in his seminal research about positive and negative interactions with healthy married couples that the "The magic ratio is 5:1. In other words, as long as there are five times as many positive interactions between partners as there are negative, the relationship is likely to be stable."

One may extrapolate that the ratio may be similar in parent-child relationships. Or better yet, perhaps kids will thrive even more with a greater number of positive interactions.

That said, I hereby resolve to communicate in a life-giving, positive manner with my children this year. If I fail in one conversational interchange, I can always begin again in the next!