Sometimes when my daughters bring me flowers from the backyard, it's hard not to say "no muddy boots inside!" Why can't I just leave it at "thanks, they're wonderful, sweetie." It's not that I don't appreciate all the charming things they do, but when I stop to think about it, criticism is usually what I vocalize. My husband has certainly noted this in the way I talk to him, too. I take the good for granted, and assume my family knows that I love so much about what they do. I tend to mainly talk about what they could do better.
I'm responsible for bringing up the children to be the best possible version of themselves, right? I know they're already more polite than I was as a kid, less picky and more helpful...I could go on. Some of this could be attributed to my consistent (constant?) setting of limits on their behavior. No grabbing, what's the magic word, talk to your sister, wipe those boots!
It's time to recognize when to lay aside the mantle of authority for a moment and just let kids be kids. Bouquets are only the beginning of the benefits. I build up our relationship and their self-esteem every time I react with appreciation.
Thanks, you're wonderful, sweeties.