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Since her daughters were young, Rachel Stafford has tried a "hands free" approach to parenting — putting down her cell phone and the pressures and distractions that come with it and attempting to be more present with her kids.
It's this mindful parenting style that recently led the New York Times bestselling author and public speaker, who blogs about her efforts to grasp the important things in life at Hands Free Mama, to pinpoint a unique way to encourage her girls, Natalie, 15, and Avery, 12.
In a recent Facebook post, Stafford explained how after receiving a bit of encouragement from an exercise instructor, she decided to pay it forward by making what she calls "celebration sacks" for her daughters.
"I grabbed two brown paper lunch sacks from the pantry and wrote several positive things I noticed they were doing on the outside of the bag with a Sharpie," Stafford told TODAY, explaining that although she filled the bags with treats like chocolate and hair bands, the gift was more about the words on the bag than the presents inside. "Each affirmation began with the words 'I love how you...' and named something specific. Creating the bags took ten minutes, at most."
But the simple gesture had a big impact on Stafford's daughters, who both recently started attending new schools and have been working hard to get into the back-to-school routine.
"My 15 year old daughter sat down and read the sack carefully, her face holding that unmistakable look of peace when someone feels seen," Stafford recalled. "And my 12 year old daughter just smiled and smiled as I read her affirmations aloud."
The southern mom-of-two says small gestures like these can make a big impact on a child who needs encouragement.
"Don't overthink it," said Stafford. "Whatever you decide to do does not need to be expensive or dramatic. You don't need to be good with words or crafty because when it comes to positive affirmation, the prize or gift doesn't really matter."
"Being affirmed is the prize. Having someone notice and celebrate your good work is the reward. Seeing the smile on your parent's face because of something you did is the gift."