Children follow what is modeled for them. Additionally, what we say to our children becomes their inner voice. So, it’s easy to see how the things that we say to them really make an impact! Below is a list of 5 things to say to your child each day so they grow into confident and caring individuals.
I love you
This may seem like an easy one but sometimes we get so caught up in the chaos of our day that we may forget to say it. And even if we do, are we saying it with love or is it just a tag on the end of the sentence? It is important for children to feel the love and connection when we tell them “I love you.” This can be done by looking them in the eyes, taking a moment to slow down and make sure we have their attention when we say it, accompany the words with a hug and/or kiss, or by doing something nice for them as we tell them “I love you.”
This simple phrase can mean so much to a child. It shows them that you are interested in what they have to say. This is important for building both their self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as for bonding. It allows them to feel that what they say to you has meaning and value, and therefore increases their sense of self-worth.
Tell me more
Similar to the phrase above, asking a child to tell you more about what they are sharing not only builds their confidence and self-esteem but encourages them to engage in conversation with you. It demonstrates to them that you feel that what they have to say is important. This is a simple way to encourage them to share more of their thoughts. When this becomes routine at an early age you can find that they are more inclined to share with you as they continue to grow into adolescence as well.
You can also build on this phrase to encourage the development of their social-emotional intelligence and integration of the left and right hemispheres of the brain by asking specific details. For example, when they are describing something that happened you can ask them to tell you more about how they felt about it. Or vice versa, if they are telling you how they felt about something you can encourage problem solving or critical thinking by having them tell you more specific details about the scenario. For example, “Tell me more about what you did when that happened. What are some other things you could have done?”
Saying thank you does two things. First, it shows gratitude and appreciation for something that they put effort into doing. This helps to build a sense of purpose and belonging. Being recognized with a simple “thank you” also helps them recognize that they are worthy individuals who make valuable contributions to the family.
Secondly, saying “thank you” role models for them a very important social skill. Saying “thank you” is one of the first social skills that we teach our babies and toddlers. When we say “thank you” to them, it role models a behavior that we would like them to adopt. Children learn more by what they see than what they hear, so, when they see us consistently saying “thank you,” then it increases the likelihood that they will do the same.
I’m proud of you / I appreciate you
Telling your child when you are proud of them not only shows that they have done well with something, and that you recognize it, it also raises their confidence and their sense of self-worth. A child may be proud of themselves for accomplishing a task, especially if it was difficult for them, but it increases their pride in themselves when their parent also recognizes the effort that they put in. Saying “I’m proud of you” can be just as valuable, if not more-so, when the child has not succeeded in their goal but has put in great effort. In moments like these, telling your child that you are proud of them and the effort that they put forth helps to increase their self-confidence while also helping them to develop intrinsic motivation. Teaching our children to be proud of their efforts, despite the outcome, is an extremely valuable life skill. The fact is that sometimes, despite our best efforts, someone else is going to do better, or we are not going to succeed. The lesson we want our children to learn is that when we put forth 100% effort that is what truly matters and is something worth being proud of.
The other phrase we can use daily with our children is “I appreciate you.” Similar to “thank you,” telling our child that we appreciate them builds self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. Telling your child that you appreciate them can go beyond saying “thank you” for something. Find things that you can appreciate about your child which will further enhance their feelings of love for themselves. Maybe you appreciate the way they read to their sibling, or the way they consider how you may feel in a situation. Maybe you appreciate their smile or their big heart. There are so many things about our children that we can be appreciative for, and it helps to build their sense of self-worth when we share those thoughts with them.
By making the effort to remember these 5 things to say to your child every day, we not only enhance the relationship with them, we also build their self-confidence and love for themselves. This increases their resiliency to life’s challenges and sends them into the world prepared to deliver kindness and love to the lives they touch.