accomplishments · Jewish · OBSERVATIONS

The Mitzvah Wall

Last month I read Ariel Chesler’s “Mitzvah Notes for Mommy” and was inspired to write mitzvah notes for Isabelle. You see, ever since Isabelle turned three I’ve understood why people have said three is worse than two. It was as if someone flipped a switch the day she turned three. Isabelle has been asserting her independence and advocating for what she wants much, much more than she did when she was two.

I want to focus on the positive, not the negative things, Isabelle does.  Last Wednesday I grabbed a pad of sticky notes and a Sharpie and called asked her to sit down on the couch next to me since I wanted to talk about some of the helpful things she’s been doing.  Once we got settled on the couch, I began creating Mitzvah Notes alongside Isabelle.  With each one, I told her what she did that was helpful or caring. Then, I drew a picture with my pathetic stick figure art since she cannot read.  Next, I summarized what I told her (and what the picture showed) into a sentence. Finally, I stuck it on the wall (just out of her reach) in her play room.

The first day I created Mitzvah Notes for Isabelle, I wrote four of them.  Each time I finished one she said, “Talk more, Mommy.”  Her face was positively glowing every time I told her something she did that was a mitzvah.  (I explained a mitzvah to her not as a commandment, but as an act of kindness, so she can get a better understanding of the concept. Remember, she’s only three!)

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My husband crafted his first Mitzvah Note to Isabelle today.

I’ve added 1 – 2 things nearly every day since I started the Mitzvah Wall. Therefore, when my husband returned home from the grocery store with Isabelle today, I asked him if he’d like to add some items to the wall.  He agreed it is important for Isabelle to get praise from both of us for her actions.

I went down to the basement and retrieved another pad of sticky notes in yellow. I gave him a Sharpie and encouraged him to bring her into the play room to talk through her mitzvot alongside him.  Just as she did with me, she said, “talk more,” after he finished writing each one.  (He wrote two for their time together today.)  I reminded her the more good deeds she does, the more often she’ll see notes on the wall.

Right before lunchtime we FaceTimed with my in-laws. Isabelle approximated the word mitzvah when we were on the call since she wanted to show them her Mitzvah Wall. Once my husband explained it to them, she went over to the wall and, with great pride, pointed out some of the items. She used one or two words to label the good deeds she had done.  For instance, she said, “tracks,” as a way of telling them she helped clean up her train tracks (bottom left).  She also said, “mommy sleeping — shhh,” when she informed them she didn’t wake me when I slept in on the last ice day we had (middle).

I never thought I’d be lining one of the walls of my daughter’s play room with sticky notes. Right now this is a wonderful way to keep track of the good deeds she does.  And when you’re three years-old and being redirected for a lot of the things you do, I think having a place to go to see all of the things you’re doing right is a wonderful thing.

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13 thoughts on “The Mitzvah Wall

  1. Great idea Stacey…and really don’t we all want to hear about nice things we do? I may just share this idea with some teachers that are having quite the challenges this year!

  2. I love this idea and was glad to see glimpses into how it is working in your family. I especially liked that you had your husband take part and thought to have a different color of sticky notes for him. Maybe it will eventually grow with others adding to the wall, such as your parents when they visit.

    I appreciate this reminder to think about the language we use with our kids and to reaffirm the positive they do.

    Isabelle’s “Talk more” response says it all.

  3. This is a great idea for parents, Stacey. Really smart. I love how you described Isabelle’s simple response. Talk more. So cute that she appreciates your kind words about her!

  4. I have never heard of this idea before, but it is incredible. What you are doing with Isabelle is just amazing. It helps Isabelle reflect on positive action (she is only three!) and helps you to focus on the good things, plus you included dad. And it’s not just spoken words but visuals too. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Wow, what a neat idea! I’m sure the experience of sitting with you as you write them is just as powerful as seeing them displayed on the wall. I bet it helped you stop and be more joyful as you focused on the positive as well!

  6. It’s a beautiful idea, Stacey. I’m going to share with my daughter too. Everyone needs some reminders of what they’re doing well. I’ll be waiting to see how it continues to go!

  7. She will remember this forever. What a great little ritual you have begun with her to focus on her kindness. All kids need this kind of recognition. It is so true that they often are redirected more than they are legitimately praised. Bravo!

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