As parents, we tend to forget how we felt and thought when we were little kids. So, here’s a reminder. Here are 6 things kids need to hear so they can feel happy, secure, hopeful about life, and close to you:
1. “I’m Sorry.” When you mess up, overreact, or make mistakes, you need to be able to say sorry. For example:
- “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you all the way out.”
- “I’m sorry I didn’t seem more understanding.”
- “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”
Children learn from your example. What better way for them to learn about responsibility than by seeing you own your mistakes?
2. “Let’s Go Out.” Have you ever noticed how happy and excited your kids get when you say, “Let’s go do something together”? Going out to play, hike, visit a museum, or simply throw a ball around shows that you are interested and care about them.
3. “Mistakes Happen.” One time when my son, Deryk, was little, our family was walking on the boardwalk near the ocean, and my husband bought cold drinks for the three of us. Because it was a hot day, the condensation on the outside of the plastic made the cups very slippery. So of course within 10 seconds, Deryk had dropped his drink on the ground. My husband said, “That’s it - we’re not getting you another one. You should have taken care of it.” I replied, “Slow down - he is only 6 years old. If I had accidentally dropped it, you would have gotten me another one, wouldn’t you?” My husband quickly realized that he had overreacted. We all cleaned up the ice cubes so nobody would slip on them, and then he told Deryk, “Let’s get you another one, but this time we’ll wrap it up with napkins so it won’t be so slippery.”
As parents, it’s easy to overreact, but you can’t be upset with a child over something that is simply an accident.
4. “Your Feelings Are Valid.” Validating your child’s feelings is probably the most important way to make him or her feel loved. When I was about 10, some kids from school were making fun of me because my mother was an immigrant. So as any good kid would do, I fought for my mother’s honor. I must have looked like a windmill because I did not know how to fight. I got thrown off the bus, and the kids who were making fun of me got to ride home. So I had to walk. When I got home, I told my mother what had transpired. From my vantage point, what she should have said was, “Come here. Let me give you a big hug. I am very touched that you would defend your mom. That was very sweet, and I love you for it.” Instead, I got, “I don’t care what other people say - it doesn’t matter to me at all,” and then she walked out of the room. To me, she was essentially saying, “What you do doesn’t matter.”
I’m not saying that she should have said getting into a fight was the right thing to do (after “that was sweet and I love you”, we should have gotten to the “sticks and stones” talk and how to handle the situation better in the future). However, as parents, you have to validate your kid’s feelings before you try to fix or dismiss a problem.
5. “I’m Proud of You.” You need to compliment your child on their kindness, their willingness to help others, and the effort they put into something. Say, “I’m proud of you for sharing your toys,” or, “I was really proud of you for helping your brother/sister with their homework.” It tells your child that you notice what they are doing.
6. “I Love You.” Kids can never hear this enough.
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