I recently wrote about what parents should let their kids see them doing to role-model well-adjusted behavior and have been planning this follow-up piece. Why? Because helping children to grow up successful and level-headed is about ensuring they see you doing andsaying certain things.
Plenty has been written about what not to say in front of your children but not so much on the opposite. So I enlisted the help of parenting experts Patrick A. Coleman, parenting editor at fatherly.com, and Daniel Wong, author of 16 Keys to Motivating Your Teenager. I blended their expertise with my own experience to share the 11 most important things your child should "catch" you saying.
This is about your child hearing you reward their effort and improvement as opposed to having a label reinforced, like, "You're so smart!". And kids don't always see that their practice is helping them improve, especially when they're more attuned to how good others are at something. Being specific about how they're improving will encourage them to keep going.
I used to think feigned omnipotence with my daughter was the way to go, but as soon as I realized I couldn't keep up the façade, well, I dropped the façade.
Saying "I don't know" shows your vulnerability. The key is to say it with confidence to indicate that it's OK that you don't know everything, but then to follow up your statement with an effort to find out the answer. It role-models curiosity and a desire to learn.
Asking them "Is that really true?" when you hear them spouting their frustrations/self-disappointments forces them to challenge their assumptions. Keep asking and they'll realize their "supporting reasons" hold no weight.
This is just good ol' fashioned role-modeling of humility and empathy. Research from University of Kent psychologists Nicola Abbott and Lindsey Cameron shows how important it is to role-model empathy for children. It teaches them kindness and forces them to be introspective about the harm they've brought to another person. It demonstrates how to begin the reconciliation and recovery process.
Children, like all other human beings, want to be heard and respected. The fact that they know so relatively little or that their demands/statements can be ridiculous doesn't matter. Just like you want to be heard when you're frustrated or otherwise, so do they. Hearing "I hear you" teaches them to be patient even when they disagree with someone.
Children, like all other human beings, want to know that they/their opinions are valued. I often ask my daughter this, especially on things that I don't know as much about (like all things pop-music). Asking this helps them to mature and form their own cohesive opinion.
Saying this shows that we all make mistakes, even mom and dad. I've found, surprisingly enough, it also encourages reciprocation from my daughter and an improved sense of collaboration and equality. You can be right sometimes dad (even if she's right the other 99 percent of the time).
I say this to my daughter because it raises the stakes of her acting in a trustworthy manner. My trust in her is a given. However, I want her to continue earning it and to imagine the pain of hearing me say the opposite in those moments where she'll have a choice to make--to behave trustworthy and responsible, or not?
You can say many things to boost your child's confidence, but I like this the best because it shows your certainty and belief in them while still indicating that it's actually up to them. The implied words after this are "...if you put your mind to it".
This one may seem obvious, but there are "strong silent" types that withhold saying it. And there are many unhelpful associated beliefs--like saying it too much defuses its power. Not so. Kids need reminders, often, of your unconditional love, and hearing it is powerfully unambiguous.