There are parenting books that offer advice on every topic from sleeping through the night to what to feed kids. But raising kids with confidence and respect isn’t something that’s always found in books. Sometimes it’s words of encouragement and daily conversations with our little ones that will matter more than grand gestures. In that spirit, we’re sharing 25 things to say to your kids every day. Scroll down to read them all.
1. Eat something healthy with your snack. Because let’s face it, not all snacks are healthy. Dr. Katharine Kersey, professor of early childhood education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., suggests reminding kids that we all need to eat healthy so our bodies will be strong.
2. Tell me one good thing that happened today. Focusing on the positive helps keep the bad stuff at bay.
3. Tell me one bad thing that happened today. It’s important to talk about the bad stuff too.
4. I’m proud of you for doing XYZ. Something about a kiddo hearing someone is proud of them has a big impact. Think of one positive thing and tell your little one about it.
5. How are you? Asking your kiddo how she feels shows that you are interested in them. Brandi Russell, pediatric occupational therapist and parenting coach, recommends checking in with your little ones just as you would a spouse or friend.
6. What would you do? This is a great response to kids always asking for help with things. Empower them while giving yourself a break.
7. What nice thing did you do or say today? Encourage kindness by reinforcing it daily.
8. Nothing will change my love for you. This phrase may seem self-evident, but sometimes kids need you to state the obvious. Rebecca Eans, bestselling author and founder of positive-parents.org, believes you can’t go wrong with this loving reminder.
9. I like it when you … Even when the kids are driving you crazy, there’s always at least one thing they did that made you smile.
10. I like you. Kids may hear the words “I love you” on a regular basis, but do they know you like them too?
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11. Please. If we want respect as parents, then we need to show that same behavior to our kids. Dr. John DeGarmo, a national foster parent coach, advocates parents should always say “please” and “thank you” to to model respectful behavior.
12. Clean up your toys, dishes, or whatever is left out. Encourage kids to take ownership for cleaning up their belongings, said Maureen Healy, author of Growing Happy Kids. Even if it’s just one or two items a day, it will help you in the long run.
13. That’s smart thinking. Sometimes hearing you’re smart is even more powerful than telling a kid they look cute.
14. Don’t let mean people define who you are. There will always be bullies in life. This simple phrase helps kids know the negative voices are not the most important.
15. I’m proud of you. They know you love them. But do they know you’re proud of them too? Dr. Sherrie Campbell, clinical psychologist and author, believes those words are just as important as affirmations of love to kids.
16. Thank you. Social skills and courtesy are important in the home and outside of it.
17. I’m sorry. We all lose our temper or make mistakes. Dr. Alison Mitzner, a pediatric specialist, believes what’s important is how we react.
18. Just be yourself. Teach your kids they’re enough, and they never have to be anyone else.
19. Do your best. It’s not about the result. It’s about how you get there.
20. Always tell the truth, even if it’s not great. The sooner kids know you’ll still love them after hearing the truth—even if it’s not great—the more truthful they’ll be as they grow.
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21. I’m listening. What do you want to say? According to Katie Hurley, LCSW, 57% of girls say they don’t always tell their parents certain things about them because they don’t want them to think badly of them. Show your kids you do care what they have to say by demonstrating you want to listen to them share information with you.
22. You don’t have to eat it. It’s tough to deal with picky eaters. Instead of fighting with your kids to eat their veggies, give them the power to say no and be in control. But don’t provide an alternative meal choice or dessert either.
23. I love being with you. Amy McCready is a parenting educator who believes encouraging words and phrases go a long way to help your kids feel safe and secure. Telling your little one how you love being with them is a great positive affirmation they’ll never tire of hearing.
24. You make me happy. Because everyone wants to feel like they matter to someone else.
25. I love you. They may be simple, but Jennifer Wolf, a PCI certified parent coach, believes there’s really no substitute for these powerful words.
— Leah R. Singer