the many blessings of doing family affirmation

I never knew how miserable a meal could be before I had kids.

Everyone is complaining about the food, the baby is literally throwing stuff, the toddlers are sparing with forks and there is just so much screaming.  Add in the regular Sunday night blues, stress from my husband’s upcoming business trip and some PMS on my part, you know, just for fun, and we have officially entered Hell.

This was the scene at our house last Sunday night.

At one point I looked around the table and actually thought, do I even like any of these people?  Do any of them like me right now?

Sure didn’t seem like it.

But in that moment my husband and I made a choice.  Instead throwing in the towel on supper and sending the kids up to bed early we took a leap of faith and did a simple family affirmation.

And everything changed.  Sure, the kids still complained about the food, and sure I was still a hormonal mess but, following affirmation we all could confidently look around our kitchen table and say, “I love these people and I know that they love me.”

Have you ever tried affirmation with your family?  We don’t do it often, maybe once every few weeks, but when we do it is so powerful.  We say, “I love you,” all of the time in this family but to actually state WHY and HOW we love each other is a total game changer, as it was on Sunday night.

Family affirmation is very simple and can be done in lots of different ways.  We usually do affirmation at meals when we are all sitting around the table facing each other.  We also usually do affirmation when things are particularly bad, but that’s just us!

Basically you just start by focusing on one person and everyone else around the table takes turns saying something they love about that person–whatever it might be.  We even have our kids as young as 2 join in on the affirmation giving and it’s surprising the things they have to say.  Then we move onto the next person until we have affirmed, or loved on, each and every person at the table.

Simple, but so powerful.

The affirmation we did on Sunday night was a profound experience for both me and my husband (hopefully the kids too).  We’ve been talking about it since then and continue to marvel at how those 10 minutes of affirmation have yielded so much fruit in our family.

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1. It totally changed the mood and atmosphere of the meal.

I find it hardest during meals with the kids to look at the “big picture”.  I get so pulled into and consumed by the details.  The food on the ground, the manners (or lack there of) of my children, the food uneaten, the time, the constant interruptions…  I can get so worked up over these things that I miss out on the beauty of my little family, gathered together around a table for a meal.

Once we started our family affirmation on Sunday the whole family was suddenly on the same note.  We were all listening to each other.  Things were probably still a little too loud but instead of screaming at each other the kids were howling with joy and laughing at the happy memories we share.

My son told my husband he loved him because of the time they spent together building LEGOS.  He told me he loved me because I had taken him to the theater.  It was so cool that he remembered those things and in that moment I wasn’t looking at the food on the floor, I was looking at my son and reliving that special memory with him.  

And I was so very happy.

Plus, it’s amazing how a compliment, even a silly one from a toddler, can radically change your mood.  My daughter told my husband she loved him because of his feet.  Yes, his feet.  Strange, but she said it in the sweetest most sincere way that we couldn’t help but believe she really loved her daddy (his feet especially).

2. It allowed us to hear how those we love love each other.

I like being affirmed, but I LOVE listening to my little family affirm each other.

It is a beautiful thing to hear your son tell your daughter that he likes playing pirates with her and to watch her face stretch into the biggest grin.  It is a beautiful thing to hear your daughter tell your son he is her best friend and to watch your son nod knowingly, like this is the most obvious thing in the world.

On Sunday we affirmed everyone, even the baby.  He was a real part of the affirmation.  Sure, he’s only one year old but when we were all listing the things we loved about our baby Dommy he was squealing with joy.  And, when I held him up and asked him what he loved about his dad his whole face stretched into a smile and he clapped his chubby hands together.  He knew exactly what was going on.

Maybe most powerful of all, our children heard my husband and I tell each other exactly why we love each other.  These years with 3 toddlers can get nuts.  Sometimes I feel like my communications with my spouse during the hours when our children are awake are strictly transactional.  You do this.  I do this.  Get that.  Grab him.  Your turn.

Affirmation forced us to look at each other and, in the presence of our kids, state why we are in love.  It forced us to stop and remember that we are, in fact, quite in love.

After your 10 minutes of affirmation I not only felt loved but I felt SURROUNDED by love.  Each and every person at that table loved each and every person at that table.  I am part of a powerful web of love.  With this sort of love in my life I can do anything, survive anything!

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3. It gave us insights into how our children feel love–or their love languages.

Something I realized since our little affirmation is that the answers my children gave when asked, “Why do you love so and so” were great insights into how they feel love.  I deeply hope that these insights will help me to love my children better, give them what they need and understand better when they are upset.

I learned that my son feels loved through shared experiences, or quality time.  He said he loves my husband because of the time they spend building LEGOS, his sister because she’s fun to play pirates with and me because of the time I took him to the theater, just the 2 of us.  All of these experiences he listed are times when he was one-on-one with the person he loves.  I plan to make more time for these one-on-one adventures with my little Gus.  Clearly they are very important to him.

My daughter, a goofy 2 year old, wasn’t quite as revealing.  Like I said, she loves my husband because of his feet.  She said she loves me because I make her food and she loves her baby brother because he’s a baby.  Acts of service perhaps?  Might take a few more rounds of affirmation to figure her out.

I went to the trouble to write all of this because I really believe that the solution to some of the family turmoil we all experience is actually very simple.  Take control of the situation and turn it into an opportunity to talk about love.  Teach your children to tell others WHY they love.  Teach your children that love is something we share about openly.  Teach your children that even though things can get crazy, love is the cornerstone of your family.

It’s the cornerstone of ours and I will fight to keep it that way.

Thanks for being here,

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PS–if you need more information on Love Languages, here are 2 great books. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts and The 5 Love Languages of Children.