Even if we have an early talker, there are times when I still can’t get the answer I need, such as when I ask how school was or what they did on certain days. All I get is, “Umm many things” or “It was okay.” Well… that’s not okay.. Moms need detailssssssss.
To solve this, I incidentally found a way that does not involve rephrasing our questions but teaching them one character trait. And it is.. (drumroll please) teaching them to be thankful. How? Through night prayers.
You may not believe me but I actually get to know my daughter more from our night prayers than from baby-sitting her all day. Sure I can see what toys she loves during daytime, but our night prayers reveal more!
Now I’m not trying to be too virtuous here and of course it would be easier to teach them how to pray when they’re a bit older, but I learned that when we start them early, it can be our window to their minds! And it is such a powerful tool in knowing the highlights of their day. If you’re a working mom and you’re in the office all day, this can also be a good way of knowing how their day went when you leave them with caretakers or other family members at home. 🙂
You just have to create a simple prayer using kid-friendly words that you’ll be happy to repeat every night.
Thank you dear God for everything that we have.
Thank you for the _____ (fill this in with 2 or 3 things you are thankful for – could be a new food that you tried, activity you did, new person you met, anything!)
Please bless ______ (members of your family, doesn’t have to be all) and everyone who loves me.
Please keep us away from bad dreams and insect bites (malamok! haha).
Please keep us healthy, safe, and away from danger all the time.
Please grant us a good night’s sleep.
We started that when she was 10 months old. Too early? Maybe. But this was the age that Mia finally settled into a regular schedule and that prompted me to establish a bedtime routine. I thought I might as well introduce praying too.
For 3 months I was reciting that prayer alone (with her by my side). But on the 4th month, you guessed it, she joined in! She would say the last words of every line – have, me, bites, time, and sleep. It seemed like she already learned it but she just can’t say all the words yet.
By the way, there may be times that you’ll get tired of this, especially when you don’t see any progress. You’ll probably think its no use. But try not to. Just keep at it. Remember that children love repetition. That’s how they learn – by hearing the same thing over and over. Just think of it as a daily prayer for you too. In fact, if you already pray regularly, this wouldn’t feel like a task at all.
Four more months later, the magic happened. She started reciting the whole thing and filling in the blanks herself. And it is so cuuute to hear what they’re grateful for!
Here are some of the things she thanked God for when she was 18 months old:
Thank you for the brown table, for the black table, for the dresser to stand on. Thank you for another day to stand on the dresser.
Whoa! I don’t think I’ve ever thanked God for our dresser! Have you? What can I say, she loves it. It’s her stage.
How I wish I had a better picture. That’s a snapshot from a video clip of her dancing when we were still in Bohol.
Anyway, since they are at a great time of exploring, everything is new, everything is interesting, and they appreciate the little things that often go unnoticed. Even the brown tables. And the black tables. LOL. I doubt any of you has thanked God for the tables you use everyday too. Hehe
On another night she went,
Thank you for the church. Thank you for the standing – all the people are standing. Thank you for the chairs to sit. Thank you for the kids to walk.
Never thought this would be fascinating in the eyes of a child. That people stand and sit during the mass, and some kids walk around.
Thank you for the slide to slide. Thank you for the slide. Thank you for the slide.
Yep, she loves the slide. Couldn’t stress it enough. hehe
Thank you for the peas to eat. Thank you for the macaroni too. Thank you for the grapes to eat.
You bet I served those many times. Huge help.
As you see, the thank you line is what really makes it fun. You’ll get to hear:
– what’s interesting to them
– what’s the best part of their day
– which toys they enjoyed the most
– what food they like
– what made them happy that day and
– what small thing mattered
From there you can already get cues on what similar toys to buy, what food to stock, what activities to repeat, and which places to revisit.
In addition, the night prayer will also tell you what tops their list. On a good night, Mia would usually have a long list and this will show you some sort of ranking.
Thank you for the iPad. (no.1, oh my goodness)
Thank you for the laptop and videos. (hello no.2, gadgets again)
Thank you for ALL my animal friends.
Thank you for ALL my toys.
Thank you for food to eat.
Thank you for Daddyow.
Thank you for Mommyow.
Thank you for Auntieyow.
Thank you for Mia.
Thank you for the black table. (here it goes again!)
Thank you for the brown table.
Thank you for the dresser.
Thank you to stand on the dresser.
Thank you to stand on the black table.
Thank you to stand on the brown table.
Thank you for ALL the tables!
That’s my cue to be conscious of screen times and my hint to how much she loves standing on elevated areas – triple mention!
Consequently, the prayer will also get better and better as your child’s vocabulary grows.
Here are more recent ones:
Thank you for Teacher Lucy and my classmates, and all the materials in school.
That’s when I know she likes school even if it takes forever for her to leave our door at times.
Thank you that we went to the playhouse and that we ate red sago and green jelly on the Halo-Halo.
Thereafter, that’s what we usually do on weekends.
Thank you for all the things to see and all the books to read.
All the things to see. I should probably include that in my prayers too. And I thought I was the one teaching her how to pray!
Also, aside from knowing their highlights and teaching them how to be thankful, you can also use this to introduce the concept of family. When you enumerate the members every night (bless Daddy, Mommy, Brother, Sister, Grandpa, Grandma, up to you who else you want to include), they’ll eventually learn that this is their immediate circle. And when school time comes, you won’t need to teach these anymore.
On the other hand, there are also nights that we skip praying altogether, especially when Mia’s already too tired. We go straight to sleep when it seems that she’s about to doze off. Or I just recite it quickly for the sake of consistency.
If you have an older kid and you haven’t started with night prayers yet (could be morning prayers too), it’s not too late. 🙂 The key is just to make it part of their routine so that it eventually becomes a lifelong habit. And if after a few months it still doesn’t work for you, we can always go back to questioning. Here’s an article by liZ Evans that has a good list of alternatives you can use to get your child to tell you more: 25 Ways to Ask Your Kids ‘So How Was School Today?’ Without Asking Them ‘So How Was School Today? I particularly like numbers 2, 5, 12, and 23.
How about you, what’s your best way to your child’s mind? I would love to know! Leave me a comment below. 🙂