In a hectic life, our words can be one of the first things we stop paying attention to.
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But when you love someone, what they say to you can have a significant impact on how you feel about yourself and the world around you.
This is never truer than when it comes to our kids, which makes paying attention to the words we use and the feedback we give them so, so important.
According to behavioural expert Scott Mautz, there are some fundamental (and simple) statements that our kids need to hear from us to keep them growing in a healthy direction.
As Scott told Inc Magazine, parents should learn to focus on not only what we say to our kids, but how we say it too – taking tone, intonation and timing into account.
So here’s the list!
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1. “All that practise is really paying off”
Most kids are focused on being better at some aspect of their lives. If you can be specific about what that ‘thing’ is and how much you’ve noticed them practising to get better at it, the more motivated they will feel to continue.
2. “I don’t know the answer to that”
This one comes as a bit of a relief to me! Kids can put you on the spot quite frequently with all their questions about how and why things work as they do. Scott says there are no prizes for guessing when it comes to explanations so on these occasions it’s always better to be honest and say, “I don’t know the answer to that.”
Doing this conveys your vulnerability – an invaluable skill for kids – and when you offer to find out the answer, it also shows how much you value learning and curiosity, too.
3. “Is that really true?”
Scott recommends using this line for those times when your kids are expressing frustration or putting themselves down. This works by forcing them to question their assumptions.
4. “I’m sorry”
This is SUCH an important one. Not only does it role model correct behaviour, but it also shows kids that we adults aren’t perfect. We all make mistakes and we are all forced to get back up and face the consequences with grace. Vulnerability is one of the best lessons we can teach our kids.
5. “You were right”
When you say, “You were right” to your child it kind of evens up the playing field a little bit. After all, who doesn’t like hearing they’re right? For kids, it makes them feel extra supported and validated and may even encourage them to say the same to you (we can’t make any promises though).
6. “I believe in you”
Or, “I am sure you can do it”. Like a verbal pat on the back, this very simple phrase reminds your kids that you believe in them. And every kid wants to know their parent has their back.
7. “I think you should decide”
Okay, so we advise caution with this one for obvious reasons. But, every now and then, this can be an excellent way to give your kids back some power. Again, put life on a bit more even playing field. Scott says it demonstrates that you trust your kids and value their opinions.
8. “I am listening”
Another variation of this is: “I hear you.” You’d be hard pressed to hear anything more validating no matter how old you are. It’s just plain good for the soul and also reminds you actually to listen and pay attention when your child is speaking. Often that is easier said than done.
9. “I love you”
Feels like this one should be number one, but there you go, it’s at the end. Might sound strange to remind you to say it, but often we ‘think’ this more than we acknowledge it. Everyone loves to know they are loved.