With school back in full swing our house has transitioned almost instantly from long, fun summer days to tighter schedules, shiny new goals, and more abbreviated, almost code-like conversation. When life shifts into a busy season it’s easy to become more about the task and less about the consistent, verbal connection with your kids. Don’t let it happen.
While there’s not an affirmation app for that—you do have everything you need in the six inches between your head and your heart to fill up your child’s tank. Affirming words, when properly applied, have the power to motivate a child and shape his or her attitude about themselves and where they stand in the world.
But take note: Studies show that praise is not created equal and can backfire if it’s hollow or undeserved. I think we’ve all met “that” kid who takes an emotional nosedive when he figures out his parents exaggerated his praise and that he is not the center of the universe.
A 2013 study from the University of Chicago and Stanford University found that the kind of praise you give your child matters. For instance, “Person” praise (“you are awesome” “you are so smart”) is performance focused while “Process” praise (“you worked really hard” “look how far you’ve come”) focused will build self-esteem and problem solving skills.
40 phrases every child needs to hear:
- I love you. (Wear this phrase out! There’s just no way to overdo it!)
- I’m really proud of the way you handled that.
- I apologize. Will you forgive me?
- I was wrong. You were right. Let’s fix it.
- Wow. Will you show me how you did that?
- You are a treasure in our family.
- Your idea has a lot of merit.
- Thank you. That was very thoughtful of you.
- I love you exactly the way you are.
- I forgive you. The slate is clean.
- It’s the hard thing, but it’s the right thing.
- It’s okay. Everyone makes mistakes.
- My love for you isn’t based on your performance.
- I know this is hard but you can do hard things.
- Thank you for sharing your heart with me.
- Wow! I can tell you put a lot of time into this!
- We are family and family sticks together.
- It’s impossible to fail when learning is the goal.
- It’s okay to cry.
- What’s your opinion?
- Don’t compare yourself to others because you are one of a kind.
- Spending time with you is one of my favorite things to do.
- Way to go. You stuck with it and it paid off.
- You are beautiful—inside and out.
- You can count on me.
- I’m not perfect and I don’t expect you to be either.
- There’s nothing you can do that can make me stop loving you.
- Choosing to do that was brave.
- That sounds tough. What did you decide to do?
- Go ahead, I’m listening.
- I trust you to do the right thing.
- Whenever you are ready, the door is always open.
- That’s interesting. I never thought of it that way.
- You are doing great.
- Thank you for helping out.
- Whatever you decide, I support you.
- I never thought of it that way. Great point!
- Everyone defines success differently.
- What opportunity does this disappointment open up?
- The answer is no. (No is one of the most loving affirmations you can give your child. It may not be what they want to hear but ‘no’ puts necessary and realistic boundaries up. And when kids have boundaries, they know they are loved!)
What are some of your favorite phrases? We’d love to add them to our list. Please share!
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @SafeEyes.