When your house rolls seven deep, it’s tough enough to make sure everyone is still alive at sundown.
It’s even tougher to ensure that the more important family-building, “good parenting” stuff gets done too, especially in recognizing and celebrating each individual child. And not only that, if we’re not careful, we can go in a very opposite direction.
“Don’t you ever close the door behind you?”
“Stop touching your brother.”
“ENOUGH with the noise!”
In order to turn the tide in our own family, we started creating space to specifically and publicly celebrate each child. We added “High Fives” to our weekly family meeting as a way to celebrate those moments when the kids really did play together nicely or show perseverance on the soccer field or actually stay in bed at bedtime. During High Fives, anyone can raise a hand and offer a shout-out to another family member. We encourage the kids to think back on the week and high five anyone who has done a great job, particularly in living out our family values.
I want to high-five Marcus for helping me pick up my legos yesterday.
I’d like to high-five Emily because she showed toughness when she got hurt on the playground.
High five to mama because she made us a yummy lunch.
Here’s why you should look to add this to your weekly routine – be it in a family meeting, long car ride or simply once a week at dinnertime:
Positive specific praise shows love and builds confidence.
I don’t care if you’re seven or seventy-seven, a genuine compliment feels great. In fact, words of affirmation are so powerful that they’re one of the five main love languages Gary Chapman identifies in his national best-selling book, The 5 Love Languages. It’s a proven way to express and experience love.
When one of our children hears a high-five is coming at them, the change is visible: he sits up a little taller and wry, proud smile spreads across his face. It reinforces family values.
We have five family values that we talk about on a weekly basis with our kids. Even the four-year old can identify and give examples for the values because our high fives reflect them. “Cam showed me love (one of our values) yesterday because she played with me in her room.” These values aren’t just random words posted on some hipster typography canvas hanging in our home (although we’re suckers for typography art). Our kids know what they are and why they are important to our family . . . even if they don’t model this behavior all the time. Simply knowing is step one.
It encourages positive language between siblings.
Not only do high fives encourage the kids to think positively about each other during the week, but they’re also learning how to respectfully interact with one another. Most children tend to be kind and respectful to people they don’t know, but it’s not necessarily the same with their siblings. Sometimes they’ll have to dig pretty deep (and it’s usually pretty funny) to find something high-five worthy, but the act is worth the effort even if it’s not the most poetic praise. Also, it’s one thing when mom says you done good, but hearing it from a sibling makes it extra special.
Parents can celebrate each other.
It’s important that kids 1) realize how much both mom and dad do for them and 2) hear mom and dad loving each other. Equally important is that the other spouse hear words of appreciation because we know it will rarely come from the kids. This models a loving marriage for your children, and it also reminds them just how much mom or dad sacrifice for them. In turn, your kids will tend to reflect gratitude a wee bit more for you throughout the week. We take what we can get, yes?
Whether you insert them into a weekly family meeting or simply do a few rounds at dinner each week, high fives are an easy way to love and value your kids. It provides a simple framework for the kind of intentional parenting that we all know is vitally important but often gets swallowed up by the busyness of kids and work and life.
Even just talking about high fives makes you want to give one, right? Go catch a kid doing something good and celebrate it!