The “light up” is one of the most important (and straightforward) strategies for fostering connection and cultivating relationships, especially with kids. Moms are (usually) especially great at this.
In my next book, I talk a lot about the top four “fool-proof” ways that seem to have this magic power of putting others at ease and strengthening a connection. From a neurological perspective, each of them, to varying degrees, do the job of pulling the prefrontal cortex back on. These strategies help us all feel seen.
One of the most important ones is the light up.
I like to think of the light up as an underutilized superpower. I talked a lot about this concept in Kids These Days. You know that feeling when you haven’t seen a kid you love in a long time and then you walk in the door and get to see them? They run to you with open arms, and you just lose your mind with joy? Think airport reunions or those videos on the TikTok where military members come back from deployment and surprise their partners or their moms (I can spend hours sobbing over these).
It’s that rush of emotion that you can see in their faces and feel in their response to each other – that is the epitome of the light up. And it’s all we need. We never grow out of wanting the people we love to lose their minds, or to light up when they see us, too. We’re so much better at lighting up in relationships when we feel a reciprocal connection – those are the ones where we tend to look and see the most. I often talk about the power that lies in waving at your neighbors – or at every stop sign you hit today. Just notice the responses you get. Usually, the people who need it the most are the ones who are the hardest to give it to.
So light up for those you love today. And if you want to challenge yourself, light up for someone you don’t.