Whether we realize it or not, words impact people – especially children – in more ways than we know. At times we teach kids that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” in order to help them beat negativity.
But we know that positive words also empower, affect, and can build someone up. They carry weight, emotion, and power, and – when coming from a close loved one – the ability to make or break a child’s spirit.
That’s why it is important to watch what we say and how we speak to them. If you’ve ever caught yourself saying the wrong thing to your mini-me, it’s okay, you’re not alone. It can make you feel awful to hurt your child’s feelings, no matter how old they get. And sometimes we have to self-check and self-correct.
Thank goodness there are ways for us to temper our words! Here we’ve outlined how to turn common sour phrases into sweet ones, and words each parent needs to shower on their kids.
I love you!
This may seem obvious, but we as adults are the ones who are teaching them the meaning of love and family. We get used to saying it at bedtime or before seeing them off, but you can’t say this one enough. Surprise ‘em with a spontaneous “I love you!” and do it daily!
What’s on your mind?
Acknowledging your child’s feelings and listening to what they have to say keeps the door of communication open. Sometimes parents aren’t the greatest listeners, but a non-judgmental ear can go a long way. Urge your child to speak up about their ideas, needs, what’s going on at school, friendships – anything – to remind them that you’re here for them and interested in their lives. Listen!
I know you can do it!
Encouragement and support can help a child to navigate their anxieties and fears with courage. Whether it’s trying something new or taking an exam, the extra push from you can help them to become confident in their own abilities.
Parents don’t always get it right, so it’s important to own up to our own mistakes and apologize for exactly what we did – without conditions. No buts! Be an example of correcting hurts and asking for forgiveness without letting your ego get in the way.
It’s not always sunshine and daisies. Teach your child to take responsibility for his or her actions by pointing out where they made a mistake. Don’t allow them to get caught up in playing blame games, as it will hamper their ability to learn right from wrong. We all make mistakes, and it’s important to teach ownership, consequences, and making amends.
I forgive you.
How often do adults say this to one another? When your kids mess up, it’s important not to hold it over their heads for eternity. By showing them forgiveness, you show them how to extend that to others as well. Tying in with numbers 4 and 5, it lets them know it’s okay to be human and to get things wrong sometimes.
Avoid “Stop crying! It’s not a big deal.” Instead use “I know you’re upset . . .”
Empathize with your child when he’s spilling his emotions over something that made him sad, angry, or scared. We want our kids to be able to express themselves emotionally, and so it’s important for them to have an outlet without feeling ashamed.
It’s okay! Just try again!
Failure is a natural part of life, but it’s still hard to take. Share your own anecdotes about failing and picking yourself back up. Remind your child that you (and other adults) also learn something new each day, because no one knows how to do everything! What’s important is perserverance and attitude.
I’m proud of you.
No matter how old they get, kids love to get approval from their parents. A simple “I’m proud of you for ___” is like a bolt of lightning. There’s something inside of them that gets brighter when they get a compliment from an adult. Start young with “I’m proud of you for cleaning up your room by yourself” and keep it going into their teenage years. Trust me, they still need to hear it!
I trust you.
Telling your children that you trust them is a huge confidence booster. When it’s time for them to make independent decisions or to manage tasks on their own, they will be able to tackle those things without the strings of fear attached.
Remix “Don’t do that!” to “Let’s try this. . .”
Hey, we all bark at our kids sometimes. But there are ways to issue commands without using negative language. Try rephrasing “don’t” to “let’s try” or “remember to”, as a way of switching to positive communication.
The pressures and stressors of everyday life have a way of turning us grown-ups into surly, disagreeable people at times. Sometimes we forget that our little people need reassurance and positive reinforcement from time to time. Growing up isn’t easy!
Even if you’re not a parent, you may have a relationship with someone else’s child who could use a loving word from someone like you. Our words can impact a child’s behavior, mental health, and growth. Keep it positive!
Do you sometimes say the wrong thing to your child? What sweet words do you dole out to your kids on a regular basis?