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Do Your Eyes Light Up?

What's the background?

The basis of so much of my parenting advice comes down to children's hard-wired emotional needs to be seen and feel significant. Being seen is the sense of belonging, the feeling of being wanted and connected. Belonging just slips off my tongue like we all know what it is: at a minimum, we all 'belong' in our families, right? But it's not that simple.

A short definition of belonging based on a lot of reading and research is that it requires not just fitting in with a group or liking the same things or having the same last name; it means actually believing in yourself enough to share who you really are and to trust that you are accepted. Wow - suddenly that feels a lot more powerful.

What is it?

Toni Morrison gets credit for Lighting Up and there's no point in my trying to say it better. This is how she explained it, "Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?

When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?”

Your Script in Action


  • walks into the kitchen with dirty cleats, or

  • finds you to ask where the computer is for the zoom class that starts in one minute, or

  • is sitting at the kitchen table scrolling social media when you walk in.

Lighting Up

Parent: Look at them, eye to eye, and smile. Show them you are happy to see them. That's it! And only after doing that:

  • suggest that dirty cleats stay in the mudroom,

  • remind him to check in the kitchen or under the pillows on the couch, or

  • ask what the plan for the evening is.


Look for one opportunity today to light up with each of your kids. Just one. And notice how it makes you feel or watch your child's face. It's simple, but transformational. Good luck!

Mary Smith Parent Coach is passionate about sharing practical, powerful habits that take one minute with parents to simply and quickly sow the roots of connection and engagement with their children while creating calm in the household.

I've Been There, I Can Help, Sincerely, Mary


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