a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Jun, 2014

Six little words that might change everything

Posted by andrea tomkins in: parenting


I am an imperfect parent, one who’s made many mistakes along this long road of mothering. I’m an imperfect parent because I’m an imperfect person. And I’m getting worse. I’m not as patient as I used to be, and I’m a bit of a yeller, and I don’t hide my feelings very well. When I’m annoyed I have a tendency to Enunciate.Every.Word.Because.

Sidebar: I have often thought about what it is that makes me grumpy. Here’s a short list:

  • when I’m tired
  • when I’m hungry
  • when I’m thirsty
  • when I’m stressed out

All of these (perhaps with the exception of sleep) are mostly preventable, aren’t they? Sigh.

Anyway, yes, I don’t beat myself up over my parenting mistakes TOO much. I can only hope that (a) I’ve learned from my mistakes and (b) my children aren’t messed up too badly and/or scarred for life and (c) they remember the good things we’ve done together when they’re figuring out what to do with me when I’m a little old lady.

I want to share a little something that I’ve learned, six words that have been known to turn a crappy situation around on its head. It’s really quite amazing. Here they are:

I think someone needs a hug.

Pretty simple eh? Try it the next time time someone has a bad day at school or has had an argument with their best friend. Say it, and follow it up with a pair of open arms. Open them wide, take a step forward, and watch the magic happen. Falling into a pair of waiting arms, breathing out a deep breath, and melting into the other person is practically automatic. And it feels really good.

And do you know what the best thing is? My kids have started saying those six words to me. I’ll find myself at a breaking point; standing in the kitchen with $20 worth of expired meat in one hand, a stinking dish rag in the other and an overflowing garbage bin behind me, or in front of a sink full of filthy dishes and dinner no where in sight; tired, hungry, grumpy. It’s when I feel like I’m about to implode, is when those six words are likely to be returned to me. Those words are like throwing a wet towel on a grenade, and although they doesn’t make the dishes disappear, the wick is extinguished and the explosion is diffused.

How about trying these six words and seeing what happens? I’d love to hear if this little bit of parenting magic works at your house.

7 Responses to "Six little words that might change everything"

1 | Lynn

June 19th, 2014 at 3:48 pm


Could have really used this last night! But today is another day and we’re having a re-set. Will definitely start using this around the house though – perfect for almost all family members (just the one kid is definitely NOT A HUGGER, but perhaps she can be taught).

2 | Ryan Bird

June 19th, 2014 at 4:13 pm


Andrea, you’re about the best parenting model I’ve seen on the web. I’ve been reading you for years and I’ve finally got a little one coming this fall and there are so many things that you’ve done that I want to emulate. This will be #1 then. Thanks!

3 | Krista R

June 20th, 2014 at 8:40 am


Love this so much – thanks for sharing.

A six word phrase that is getting said a lot around here is “Listen to understand, not to respond”. I definitely have some room for improvement, as do my kids.

4 | Marianna Annadanna

June 20th, 2014 at 9:33 am


Baby Fraggle is only 11 months old and I’m already less patient than I was in the beginning. Oh the guilt. I shall try this! (But lately I’m alone with her a lot, so I’m afraid once I realize I need the hug there’ll be nobody there to give it!)

5 | andrea tomkins

June 20th, 2014 at 1:31 pm


Thanks guys. I really appreciate your comments.

I’ve been thinking about this post since I hit the publish button. Although this seems like the most basic kind of parenting advice, maybe the kind that maybe doesn’t even need to be shared, I think it’s still a good reminder that sometimes a few little words can actually turn something around.

After all, when we grow up, these are the things that we remember… the little words and how they made us feel, right?

6 | Mark

June 20th, 2014 at 6:52 pm


I still think having a bug in your hand and saying “I think someone needs a bug” is more effective.

7 | Laurel

June 21st, 2014 at 8:52 am


Great post.
Mark is funny.
I think one of the most powerful parenting “tools” is awareness or being aware and that you are! If we are aware, we can shift and reassess and try better next time right? That’s what imperfect humans do.
Hugs are the best!

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  • andrea tomkins: I hope you like it Anne! Do you batch cook soups for your soup-lovin' family? It'd be easy to freeze in single serving containers!
  • Anne Rodrigues: That's funny - my family's the opposite. They love soup and I can't stand it but they want soup at least once a week. So, I guess I have to give in.
  • „Live Below the Line” sau cum e s? tr?ie?ti cu 1,5 dolari pe zi | Dana rozMarin: […] ?i a f?cut-o cu atâta succes încât acum scoate o carte cu re?ete foarte ieftine, MintLife, Quiet Fish ?i un exemplu românesc, Farfuridi.
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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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