It is a long standing tradition for mothers to worry about their children. When I was young, my mother insisted I call her at every bus transfer on my way home from school. My grandmother tells stories of her fears of pneumonia plaguing her family. Mother’s Day was, in fact, originally founded by concerned mothers, as an outcry against the Civil War.
“Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. … In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed …to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”
With our country having just been involved in two wars, many mothers today share these concerns. Additionally, they are faced with different concerns: childhood obesity, acts of random violence, teen pregnancy, the implicit effects of income on our children’s ability to excel in school, figuring out the perfect amount of “screen time,” and the list goes on. This Mother’s Day, I think we are overdue for a research-based celebration of mothers and all they do, in little and big ways, to nurture and promote their children’s well-being.
Praise and Positive Communication
Mothers aren’t always given a pat on the back for their emphatic responses to macaroni necklaces- but they should be. Positive reinforcement and communication is associated with children’s well-being and positive development (Carlson 1992). The majority of adolescents have mothers who usually or always praise them for doing well. Praise and communication fosters a positive and enriching family environment which can help prevent behavior problems in youth, including delinquent behaviors (Cowen 1988). The next time you hear a mom saying “great job!” as she ogles a Rorschach finger painting, be sure to tell her the same.
Rushing to get children to school and adults to work while catching the bus or avoiding traffic can seem a bit chaotic, but daily family routines are linked to multiple child outcomes, including academic achievement, self-esteem, and behavioral and emotional adjustment (Maccoby 1992). Most teenagers live in households where routine household tasks are performed at least five days a week and 72 percent of adolescents eat dinner with their families at least five days a week (Child Trends Brief on Family Strengths). While making dinner for the family may seem anything but extraordinary to the broccoli-loathing child archetype, one study found that “…eating meals as a family was the most important predictor of adolescent flourishing.”
Spending time together does not have to be complicated to bring families closer and can benefit a child’s development. Moms who take their children with them to the New York City Ballet or sit down to watch Glee receive similar benefits when they discuss the experience together. It can be hard to maintain family dialogue in a world of smart phones, social media, and compounding responsibilities but mothers manage to make it work. Reading out loud is widely regarded as the most important activity leading to language acquisition. The 50th read through The Very Hungry Caterpillar may not be the glue holding a family together, but it certainly keeps them close.
Be sure to thank the special women in your life this Mother’s Day for “promoting the great and general interests of peace” in yours.
Shelby Hickman, Senior Research Assistant