On Friday, Maxwell's finger got pinched in a bench and was bleeding quite a bit.
I was cleaning him up and attempting to soothe his sadness and quiet his cries
when I made the comment, "You're so brave!"
"Yeah!!" he replied.
And then for the next several minutes he kept looking at his finger and declaring adamantly,
"I'm braaaave. I'm braave."
He stood at the top of the stairs and yelled down to Lincoln.
"Lincoln?? LINCOLN??? I'm braave!"
When his brothers got home from school he showed off his bandaged finger and said again,
I was struck by how quickly my comment became a part of his identity.
While I was grateful he immediately internalized my passing comment,
I was also hit with a pang as I remembered times my comments hadn't been quite as positive to my boys.
Although I've always been careful to not give our kids negative labels,
I have said things like,
"Why can't you guys stop fighting?"
"It isn't hard to remember--just put your shoes in the shoe basket when you take them off!"
"They're picky eaters."
And whether I mean to make those things part of their identity or not,
my boys are hearing,
"I always fight with my brother."
"I'm not smart enough to remember to put away my shoes."
"I won't ever like those foods."
Thankfully the positive comments we give far outweigh the negative ones,
but that little incident with Maxwell motivated me to strive even harder to address bad behavior without connecting it to a child's identity--
to say things like,
"You are such a kind person and I really hope you will start showing that kindness to your brother now."
"I know that you'll be able to remember to put away your shoes."
"The boys are good at trying everything I ask them to. I used to not like many foods but I kept trying them and as I got older I began to like a lot!"
I'm grateful for the continual opportunities I'm given to learn and change.