In my last post exploring children's relationship with nature, I described eight ways that parents can nurture their children's love of nature. Because words send powerful messages to children, you can further help your children connect to nature by associating their wonderful experiences in nature with meaningful catchphrases related to nature.
Our catchphrase for sending positive messages about the environment to Catie and Gracie is "We're a green family." Whenever a situation arises where a lesson about nature, the environment, or conservation can be taught, we point it out and say that "we're a green family." Whenever the girls are doing something wasteful, such as leaving the bathroom faucet running, we remind them that "we're a green family" and that "the Earth wouldn't be happy." At around 2 and a half, Catie surprised us once while we were recycling by saying, "Are the trees happier now?" Our girls understand that our admonitions to, for example, turn off the lights are tied to a larger message -- the Earth -- about which they care deeply.
Not surprisingly, given its nurturing quality, "Mother Earth" is common among catchphrases for the environment. Steve and Caitlyn use "Mother Earth takes care of us, and we take care of Mother Earth" as a reminder to their twins when an opportunity arises to act green. Similarly, Jake's catchphrase for his two sons is "Let's help Mother Earth." He likes his catchphrase because it is collaborative and active; there are things he and his sons can do together to assist Mother Earth.
Jonah and Lucy want their two children to focus on what they can actually do to help Earth stay healthy, so their catchphrase is the popular three Rs of waste: "Reduce, reuse, recycle." They feel that the strength of their catchphrase is that it actually tells their children the actions they can take to support their planet.
Blake says that he tends to come up with corny ideas, and he admits that his catchphrase for nature is as corny as it gets: "Green is keen." But his three children always get a kick out of his saying it with a funny voice and goofy expression on his face. His children love the rhyming and add a tune to it when they use it. Though Blake has fun with the catchphrase, he also makes sure that his kids get the message by connecting it with the green activities in which they participate.
Marcy is an organizational efficiency consultant, so she is hyper-attuned to waste when she is working and at home. So she and her husband Cameron make an effort to make their home as efficient and waste-free as possible, for the sake of the Earth and their wallets. And they want to send this message to their children Sami and Jessie. Their catchphrase is "Save, not waste." Whenever Marcy or Cameron see waste occurring around the house -- for example, lights left on or water running for too long -- they simply tell their children, "Save, not waste," and they get the message and stop the waste.
Tanya wants to instill the same love she had for nature in her son and daughter. So her simple catchphrase is simply "I love nature!" (said with enthusiasm, of course). When she is outside with her children, whether walking, skiing, gardening, or playing, she spontaneously announces, "I love nature!" Before long, her kids would yell out the catchphrase after she did. Clearly, the message was getting through.
With sufficient repetition, these catchphrases become more than just words but attitudes that guide children's thoughts, emotions, and actions around nature.
This blog post is excerpted from my third parenting book, Your Children are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You (The Experiment Publishing, 2011).