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SMILES: YOUR DEFAULT EXPRESSION

Lucky me, I had and still have excellent parenting teachers. I learned a lot about parenting from my own children and I’m still learning from observing other people and their children, gettingh comments from my parent readers, and, recently, my dog.

This ParenTip is about how others see us especially those little creatures that we are in charge of.

Many years ago when I was worried about a very sick relative, my four-year-old daughter came over to me and smoothed out my frown. A compassionate gesture which made me proud. But then she said, “Why are you mad at me?” I gave her a big hug and explained Grandpa was sick and I had a frown-y face because I was worried about him.

A teachable moment for me. Little ones are so dependent on us that 1) They don’t want to displease us. and 2) They don’t like frowns.

My Cavalier King Charles spaniel is very sensitive to me: my facial expressions, voice, and body language. When I smile at her she always wags her tail. I have already told my readers that the best way to put on her harness for our walks together is to whisper sweet nothings about what a good dog Mindy is. The whisper makes her come closer so I can snap the harness. If I use my normal voice or am irritated because I am in a hurry she backs away making my harnessing harder.

Last night my dog forgot her manners and when my back was turned she jumped on the bed, and ate a cookie I had put on the bedside table. I didn’t actually see her do it but seeing the crumbs on her face was enough circumstantial evidence for me. I REALLY frowned and opened my mouth in disbelief. I didn’t have to say a word. Mindy immediately jumped off the bed and walked into the crate, her time-out place. She read my body language and knew she had done something she was not supposed to do.

The parenting lesson here is that little ones are very good at reading our facial expressions and body language. They know the meaning behind the tone and volume of our voice.

So, let’s make a smile our default position. Frown when we must, but smile every minute we can.

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