1) I Love You — You can’t just tell or just show your kids that you love them. They need to see, hear, and feel that you love them. Hugs, kisses, time spent with them, gifts (not all the time, but not just for Christmas & birthday either), etc. — these show your child that you love them. But it’s also so important for a child to actually hear the words, “I love you.”
I have a young cousin who’s almost like a son to me. The other day, he said this to me: “I like it when you tell me you love me.” That really hit me hard. Sure, I show my love for him in many ways, but he likes it when I tell him, “I love you.”
2) True Praise — I’ve been playing the piano since I was about 6 years old (that would be about 16 years). Sometimes, my dad would come home from work while I was practicing. On those days, he would sit and listen to me play until I was done, then usually compliment me on my playing — tell me he enjoyed it or that he could tell I’d been practicing because the song was sounding better. He even asked me to play a specific song on occasion. Because I knew he thought I played well (no matter what I thought of my playing), I would sometimes play longer than my required practice time. I tried harder to play the songs correctly so that he would enjoy listening to me play.
This is important to kids (and adults too). It’s not enough to just tell other people about your child’s talent or ability. Your child needs to hear it for himself. This will encourage your child to put out more effort to do better. It will also let them know that you think they are doing well, which builds their self-confidence.
3) Please & Thank You — We stress so much for kids to say “Please” and “Thank you”, but do we say them enough? Recently, I told my young cousin to do something and he replied, “Shouldn’t you say ‘please’?” He was right, I should have asked him. It wasn’t a command, it was a request; but I am so used to telling him what to do that I forget to ask him to do things. Kids need to hear adults say please to them. I think it helps to make them feel like they’re really needed to do what they’re being asked to do. Also, this teaches your child by example that it’s important to say “Please”.
If you tell your child to do something, you usually just expect them to obey. You should thank them, though, when they obey. Not only does this express your gratitude, it also shows your child that you really do notice & appreciate their obedience, rather than just expecting it. It also teaches them to express their gratitude and appreciation to others.
4) I’m Sorry/I Was Wrong — When you flub up (and you know as well as I do that all parents flub up) you need to admit it and apologize if necessary. This doesn’t make your kids think less of you. They most likely already know that you were wrong, so just be an adult and do what you would expect your kid to do — admit it and apologize. They’ll likely respect you more for it.
Your kids need to realize that you’re going to mess up. And they also need to know that you will realize and admit it when you mess up. This will help your child to learn to do the same.
Related post — “4 Things Kids Shouldn’t Have To Hear From Their Parents“