Some time ago I gave my five-year old a post-it pad from a batch of freebies I received in the mail. One fine day he decided to use it to write some words of appreciation to me, his father, and his younger brother (who cannot read yet). Three of us received a sticky note each of his tender words of thanks. It was lovely to observe a child his age being so full of gratitude, and expressive enough to write it down.
Not to be outdone, I decided to write a sticky note back to him. I stuck it on his milk packet that night, for him to discover it the next day. He was delighted to receive it! But little did I know that he had formed an expectation to continue receiving notes from me. When he did not see one the following morning, he got upset with me and I, in turn, got frustrated at his demand.
I relented, however. And after a few weeks of writing almost-daily notes to him – sometimes just one-liners of “thank you for...” – I have discovered that this practice has changed me: What I had initially perceived as a burden turned out to be a positive daily exercise where I now find things to affirm or encourage my son about.
You see, I grew up in a typical Asian familial environment where praises were few. Unfortunately my primary love language is words of affirmation, and as a result, I had often felt unloved by my parents when I was a child. As a parent, I had intentions of being generous with praise for my children, but the sad reality is that I, too, more often that not, am more critical of my boys than I am affirming. As much as my husband and I do point out their good behaviour when we observe it, the truth is I can do better in this area of offering them words of affirmation.
And so this is what the almost-daily practice of writing sticky notes for my son has done for me. I have found that the routine has caused me to run through my son’s behaviour for that day in my mind, and then find something to thank, encourage or affirm him in writing. It has made me take note of his positive behaviour more, and also caused me to take better notice of how well he is growing. I believe that it has gradually fostered even better relations between me and my son. All this, thanks to God who used my son.
How long will I keep this up? I honestly do not know. But I have come to enjoy it now, and who knows, if you give it a shot, maybe you would too!
Li Ling has been with Cru Singapore for 12 years. Besides serving as a project & outreach coordinator with a local arts ministry team, she enjoys helping others develop their personal faith stories, and connect the dots to see how God has worked in their lives. In addition to these, Li Ling is married to Alvin, her husband of seven years, with whom they raise their two boys.
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