We all have some room to improve in the parenting department, but there are a few key phrases that instantly build connections and improve the child-parent relationship. By sprinkling these throughout the day or week, you will quickly see a change in the dynamics and improve your parenting overnight.
- “You are a great kid“. Who doesn’t love to be told they are amazing? Especially when they aren’t trying to do something spectacular. Telling your kid that you think he or she is great when they are just being normal, is a beautiful way to tell them you appreciate them. It also communicates that you appreciate them for who they are, not only for what they accomplish.
- “I love being your mom“. Being a mom (or dad) is hard. Our kids recognize our stress and exhaustion at a shockingly young age. But that doesn’t mean we don’t also love being their mom or dad. And yet we don’t always communicate that sentiment as clearly or frequently as we show our stress. Tell them you love being their parent, even on hard days – and maybe especially on hard days.
- “I am sorry“. You probably expected me to start with this one because it is so obvious. We aren’t perfect. We will make mistakes. Own up to those mistakes and show your kids how to take personal responsibility for their own mistakes. Moreover, you can use this phrase when you aren’t at fault, but you are sorry they are having a hard time. For instance, “I am sorry you had such a bad day” communicates empathy. “I am sorry you are disappointed with my rule” shows you see that they do not like your decision. This leads us to the next one…
- “This is non-negotiable“. When my oldest began talking he also began negotiating. As much as I appreciate his creativity, there were times when he just needed to stop and accept my decision. When he heard the phrase “This is non-negotiable” he knew that my decision was final. Caveat – When you use this phrase, you have to actually stick to your decision.
- “I love spending time with you”. As my children have gotten older, spending 1:1 time with my children is one of the greatest joys in my life. When they were younger, not so much. Early into my parenting, I got the sage advice to find little things that I enjoy doing or sharing with each child. Those little things became special activities or topics to experience together as the children grew older. Cooking together, eating out, reading similar books, watching certain shows, running errands together – it becomes something special when you can share it intentionally 1:1. You can read more about this idea on my old blog here.
- “How can I help you?” or “What do you need me to do?”. Some may not like that this is a question rather than a phrase, but for older kids especially, giving them permission or freedom to ask for help or to ask you to give them space can be a great way to improve the relationship. I try to ask this at the beginning of the week, and follow up with “Are you going to need a ride anywhere” or “Do you need to change dinner time?”. It opens communication about the upcoming week. The simple initial response that they don’t need anything can quickly change into a special dinner request, or a longer discussion about something they have been ruminating upon.
- “I love you“. There are countless ways to show someone you love them, but everyone needs to hear those three words daily. Every child deserves to be reminded of how much they are loved every single day.
Sometimes it is easy to focus on what we do more than what we say. That ignores the first and most concise tool of communication we have. Let’s not assume our children know how deeply they are loved, valued, seen, or heard. Improve your parenting by simply adding these phrases to your daily interactions.