In the past few weeks I had really sweet experiences with friends’ paying lovely compliments to me via my kids.
Like last night when my neighbors came for dinner with their new baby, and over stew and winter salad Helena complained how her mom (that would be me) yelled at her in the mornings. “Well,” my friend said. “When I see how bright and funny and well-behaved you and your brother are, I think what a great mom you and Lucas have.” Which shut my kid up real quick-like.
Or a few weeks ago, my oldest friend Amanda visited from St. Louis. While she, the kids and I ate banana apple muffins in the living room on Saturday morning, Amanda told my daughter what a great mom she has, how she has an interesting career and takes them on cool trips and some other stuff I forget because I was just so touched and grateful for her friendship, but also that there was someone other than me pointing out my finer points to my kids. Marketing experts know that promotion is far more powerful when coming from a credible third party — in this case, someone who is not naggingly demanding respect and gratitude all the live-long day (that would be me).
Which brings up a big question for single moms: For all you do for your kids, who do you have in your life to point out those things to your kid? In a perfect world, each of us might have a spouse or partner who genuinely adores you, and organically displays that adoration through myriad words and gestures. In the absence of such a partner, who puts into perspective for your kids what a great cook, or hard worker, or loving parent you are?
How do your kids learn to appreciate you? Or do they?
Often, I feel like my kid’s really don’t appreciate me as much as I think they should (what can I say, I have an ego — it needs stroking from those I love most!). But then I realize that they are listening all the time. I hear Helena telling her friends or the parents I’m meeting for the first time at soccer practice: “My mom is a VERY GOOD writer! And she has a radio show and is on TV!” I realize that she listens when my friends come over and we talk business, and she pays attention when I tell her about my day.
And Lucas goes beyond in his over-exaggerated way to be positive, will say: “Mommy, those muffins are looking GOOD!” or “Thank you for making movie night.” Maybe it his naturally sunny disposition, or my nightly drilling of gratitude practices or constant “What do you say …?” (Acceptable answers: a) Please, b) Thank-you). Or maybe I have nagged my kid into a gratitude stupor that extends to his mother.
I reached out to the mamas in our Millionaire Single Moms closed Facebook group. Here is what other single moms say about how to teach kids to appreciate them:
It’s by example. My 15 year old son and I discuss everything that will have a major impact. We discuss the pros and cons. I guess it pays off because after I took a new job and was feeling guilty about being away from home for such a long day he wrote me a note telling me how much he appreciates all that I do for “us.” — Betsy
I try to emphasize to my son (he’s 6) how we are a team. He and I together are a special family and we work together. My mom and dad (who are divorced) both do show support when they visit or talk to my son about being a helper and being kind to me because I work so hard. — Kasia
By teaching them the value of money, so we all know how hard it is to earn it, looking for better prices or bargains as part of the deal While shopping. And then equating precious time as a value, as a resource, and as a necessity in our lives. So everyone’s time is valuable and everyone’s hard work is meaningful. — Evie
I know ex still tells our daughter nice things about me because sometimes he does it in front of me. (Also he’s very good with words… it’s the actions he struggles with). And I make sure to say only nice things about him in front of her. That was one thing we agreed on. Also, my sister (also a single mom) and I live together so we get to co-parent some. We make sure the kids appreciate the other one, including helping them pick out cards or small gifts for the other or making sure we get thanked for things we do for the kids. — Robyn
I constantly tell my daughter that we are not lucky, we work hard. She is little but understands that we have a house because mommy worked in the city and did 4 hrs a day on a bus and she knows all the fun stuff we do is because I work hard. She also appreciates that I play with her because she knows no one else (that she sees) plays dolls with their kids. — Lynda
I play into her idols (Gal Gadot’ s wonder woman, Xena, and Gabrielle) and tell her that Amazon’s earn everything and as a Latina Amazon she respects and honors her elders. I also shoot it pretty straight with her on how the world works. — Vanessa
As my 9-year-old gets older, the affection and appreciation wanes. Honestly, at his age now, and with his temperament, I’ve found that being more strict helps. He earns privileges. He has chores. When I do something like pack his lunch, that is an extra and a favor, not a given. He THANKS me for that now, because it is his default daily responsibility. When he gets a new toy and doesn’t use his OWN money, he THANKS me for it. I walk the line between explaining that our life doesn’t just magically happen, and making him feel guilty or bad for all I do. — Angela
I want my sons to know how to treat women and be gentlemen so I teach them to open doors and use manners. We talk about taking care of people that aren’t as strong as you and I have my sons make something for me or I take them to the store to let them buy something for me for my birthday or Mother’s Day. It’s really awkward for me, but that actually really like it and they learn that those days are important for their future wives and daughters. My little guy brought flowers to his teacher the other day cuz “girls like flowers” 😊 — Mary Kate
Once my nanny told my littles I had to go to work to pay for their house. I (was fuming, but) told them, I don’t *have to* go to work, I *get to* go to work, and it gives me purpose, and makes me happy, and helps people who need it, and allows us to have a safe house and a wonderful school. I am *lucky* to go to work. Now when I get home, they ask me how many people I helped today. I think that, a lot of times, they are helping me be appreciative, and not the other way around.
The other component is, I teach them to respect their dad. He teaches them to respect me. Not everyone has this reciprocity in their co-parenting relationship. But if you can show your children you respect their parent, you’re also saying, “I respect you,” and this leads to the children showing you respect, as well. I feel like respect & appreciation go hand in hand, or at least, where there is disrespect, there’s no chance of appreciation. — Erika
I believe in building others up through words, so I talk up my friends and colleagues in front of my kids. This often becomes reciprocal: empowering speech ricochets around and returns. I try to take positions of leadership that my kids can see, and we talk about self-love and risk taking in the absence of external validation. It gets lonely being my own cheerleader. I often wish I had an external cheerleader, and at the same time, I want my kids to know to that there is freedom in self-validation. — Rachel
Every morning, I would tell my daughter, OH MY, look at you. You are so beautiful and smart. Look at your eyes and your nose. You‘re so kind and giving. You are my favorite girl in the whole wide world. Now, I’m like her IDOL. She bigs me up EVERY CHANCE SHE GETS. She thinks I’m the most beautiful smartest woman in the world. Lol. Same thing for my sons. But, I think they may think their aunty (my sis) is the cutest of the two! — Vanessa
Share in the comments: Without a spouse, who in your life helps your kids appreciate you?
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.