With Mother’s Day upon us, it is interesting to note that 88% of adults say their mother have had a positive influence on them.  92% say their current relationship with their mother is positive.  88% of all mothers say their family appreciates them enough.

One thing for certain, a Mother’s opinion matters and she has enormous power when she uses that power intelligently and intentionally. 

Children want their mothers to see and value what they value in themselves.  And Oklahoma County District Judge Twyla Gray does that with her daughter as well as anyone I’ve ever known.  Gray has a practice of writing notes to her daughter, telling her the things about her she likes and appreciates.  I met her daughter as a college student and she told me she has saved every one of those notes.

I asked Judge Gray about her approach to being a parent.  “Every day I tried to find something to say to her, about herself, that was positive, for example, how she handled a situation, if I’d seen her being a good friend or working hard at school.  I always thought I could set her tone for the day in the morning drive to school – a little prayer, a positive attitude, encouraging her to shake off any “morning” problems – telling her she could comfort herself by using a hug from her “hug bank.”  Then in the afternoon, I tried to reconnect – listening with more than my ears, offering comfort, support or encouragement.  The world out there is tough and I wanted home to be refuge for all of us.”

When I asked her daughter how she remembered being parented, she told me she’d always felt respected by her parents and free to follow her own path.  She always felt they had time to listen to her and always felt they took her seriously.  She remembers often hearing the words, “Tell me more.”

She was free to disagree with them, and while they set limits, she never felt trapped. The rules were clear and she knew without a doubt what was off limits.  One thing that was not tolerated was a temper tantrum.  They would simply ignore her and since throwing a tantrum never worked, she learned to use her words.

However within the boundaries, even as a young child, they allowed her to make choices.   Her Dad, Charley, would help her look at the pros and cons but neither parent would make decisions for her.

When she was 5 years old, her Mother had breast cancer.  She says her parents were honest with her. It was a serious thing but she was assured her Mom was getting treatment. 

She and her Mom moved to Dallas for a few weeks while her mother underwent chemotherapy.  What she remembers from that time is riding trolleys, going to eat spaghetti - her favorite food  - and making the wigs her mother wore into puppets.  She said her Mom did that so she would not be afraid of her without hair.

When I asked her what advice she would give parents, she said, “Give your child respect, listen to them because this gives the child a voice, be honest with them as is appropriate for their age and leave them free to be their own person.”

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