“Make your bed.”
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“You washed your hands? Did you use soap?”
“Stop. No whining.”
Do you find yourself repeating yourself daily? Do your admonitions seem never to sink in or make a difference?
Have you become the frustrated, nagging mom that you never wanted to be?
I don’t have any magic that will make your kids wake up tomorrow and not only remember but follow all your – yes, very basic – requirements.
I don’t come as one who is never irritated at the fact that I have to repeat reminders for what ought to be simple habits.
We know we’re talking, lecturing, nagging too much when our kids tune us out. We become the Charlie Brown teacher “wah, wah, wah” voice in the background of our children’s lives.
That’s not how we want our voice to be perceived as mothers.
But I do have a practice to share and recommend that not only helps our children’s memories but improves our own attitude about repeating ourselves.
That practice is to use mottos.
Using mottos in our parenting and our homeschooling allows us shortcuts to the core of our parenting lectures.
It gives us the opportunity to repeat ourselves without sputtering for words.
It reminds us what we want to say while also reminding our kids what we want them to know (and do).
In short (literally), it makes our communication more effective.
Some of our wordy parenting lectures are just rambling as we try to hunt for the right combination of words or metaphors or empty threats that will get the message across. Except it doesn’t.
Giving ourselves a shortcut
When we rely on mottos, we have something memorable and pithy in our back pocket, so we can simply repeat our saying and then expect obedience because we all know we’ve had this conversation before and we all know what the saying means.
“Fussy babies go to bed,” I repeated half to my 2-year-old and half to myself as I picked her up and walked up the stairs to put her in her bed. Instead of being flummoxed with what to do or say with a floppy, fussy toddler when we were trying to do school (like I had been years before with a previous toddler), now I knew exactly what procedure to follow. Having a little motto to repeat gave both the toddler and myself the pep talk we needed for consistency.
Repeating a motto – even 100 times – is not a magical method for having suddenly perfectly obedient children.
But it is a great aid in teaching our children to obey because it helps us to be consistent, and consistency is the second-biggest hurdle to parenting effectively (the first is stepping appropriately into our God-given authority as parent).
The reality is that we’re supposed to repeat ourselves as parents. It’s part of our job. Our children are not robots we program. Just as God repeats Himself for us, so we in turn repeat for our children.
Repetition is a tool we can use, rather than a necessary evil we resent.
Mottos not only make that repetition more effective and valuable, they keep us positive and encouraged even as we repeat ourselves.
Mottos are for our grandchildren
Then, there’s the unexpected bonus of mottos.
We can parent from the perspective of being grandparents, not parents only. The payoff for our own parenting effort will be payoff benefiting our grandchildren more than it benefits our own self with convenience.
By repeating mottos, we are putting our voice and simple, straightforward advice into our children’s heads. They will reap the benefit as adults and parents more than we will in our own homes.
We’re parenting for the long game, not for short term peace and ease.
We will find when our children become parents, that the mottos will come out of their mouths without them thinking about it.
When we stick these mottos in our kids’ heads, we’re indirectly parenting our grandchildren and giving our children a parenting leg up.
We’re parenting generationally, which is how we ought to parent.
This week I did a free workshop on using mottos, which you can watch on YouTube here:
I asked the ladies who were there at the workshop live to share their best mottos, and we collected a treasure trove of combined wisdom.
Mottos about obedience
Obey right away, all the way, with a good attitude, everyday.
Obey right away and joyfully.
Obey right away, all the way, and with a happy heart.
Forgetting is disobeying.
Incomplete obedience is disobedience.
Right away, completely, without complaining.
Do what you’re told, when you’re told, with a respectful attitude.
Obey: quickly, sweetly, completely.
Slow obedience is no obedience.
Say, “Yes, mom.”
Mottos about work ethic
Do it right the first time.
Do the next thing.
I CAN and I WILL try my best.
Leave it better than you found it.
Put it away; don’t delay!
Hard isn’t bad, hard is just hard.
Don’t let the thing you can’t do get in the way of the thing you can.
A garden is not made by singing “oh how beautiful” and sitting in the shade.
You don’t have to like the job, you just have to do it.
You find lost things best by cleaning.
Get after it.
I am capable.
Mottos about kindness & manners
Keep fellowship, don’t break fellowship.
Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it meanly.
Speak with kindness and respond with gentleness.
See needs and meet them.
Keep your hands, feet and other objects to yourself.
Hands are helping not for hurting.
Try that one more time, kindly.
Live together, whine alone.
Mottos about character
If you make the mess, you clean it up.
Godliness with contentment is great gain.
People are more important than things.
We do hard things.
I get what I get and I don’t throw a fit.
Never repay evil for evil.
Discipline equals freedom.
Respect God, respect others, and respect property.
You don’t have to like it.
Reign in your horses.
Blow it out. Show me tough.
Mottos about demeanor & comportment
Choose to be cheerful.
What do you when you fall down? (You get back up!)
Whiners get nothing.
Voices: Cheerful, polite, strong.
Look with your eyes not with your hands (at other people’s stuff).
Look with your eyes and hands, not mouth (when looking for your own lost stuff).
Running and screaming is for outside.
Mottos to make them think
Do you already know the answer to that question?
Think before you speak.
Stop, look, and listen.
A boy must learn what a man must know.
Use your brain not mine.
Buckle your seat belt and make good decisions.
Look before you leave.
Mottos for house rules
It takes a family to take care of a family.
The couch is for sitting.
One girl in the bathroom at a time.
Toys are not food.
The seat is for your seat, not your feet.
How to learn & use mottos
So, what do you do with the mottos you’d like to make part of your family culture? Choose 4-6, print one per page, and repeat them together during your homeschool morning time.
Use each one as a prompt to have a discussion after family dinner.
Put them up on the fridge or across your sliding glass door as a reminder to say them and make them as sticky in your minds as they are on the doors.
Then, when the situation warrants it, repeat the motto to the child and expect that result. Hold the line. Use your mottos to parent wisely and well by parenting cheerfully and consistently.