Our kids hear our voices a lot. In fact, they've been hearing it since 18 weeks in the womb (babies can actually hear sounds while in the womb...amazing!) However, not everything we say is nice and pretty and wrapped up with rainbow ribbons - sometimes we just have to get down to the business of day-to-day life.
Put your coat on. Stop hitting your brother. Eat your broccoli. Do you have to go potty? Are you thirsty? Let's go get in the car. Leave your diaper on. Time for bed. Just try to go potty. Stop throwing blocks at the window. Stop taking ornaments off the tree. Are you sure you don't have to go potty?
So yeah... our days can be filled with necessary conversations. We need to talk about potty, food, and house rules, but children need more than that. They need meaningful conversations that can further strengthen your bond with them. Specificially, your child needs to hear these eight things from you.
I love you
It goes without saying that you love your child. Apart from showing love, your child also needs to hear the words. I love you.
Why? Hearing the words helps to reinforce to your child that they are loved unconditionally, independent of their own successes, failures, and merits. It lets them know you love them no matter what. Yes, actions are incredible indicators of what we really feel, but for children, especially little ones, those precious three words gives them something to hold onto when they need comfort or encouragement. Studies show that teenagers who grow up not hearing those words from their parents are more likely to have self-esteem issues and/or equate being loved with performance.
When one sibling hits another, what do most parents do? Somewhere in their discliplining is ususally a requirement to apologize to their sibling. We do that because it so important to teach young ones how to act after hurting another person. Modeling that behavior can be difficult. If we hurt our children (i.e. loosing temper and yelling), we need to model what we want to see. Admitting we as parents were wrong is never easy, but children benefit from hearing "I'm sorry." Not only does that help mend your own relationship, but it teaches children that it's okay to make mistakes but mending a relationship starts with a sincere apology.
Please forgive me
Along with "I'm sorry" letting your children hear you ask for forgiveness teaches positive interpersonal behaviors. Asking for forgiveness is not easy; even many grown adults struggle with it, but teach your kids early that pride is not more important than mending a relationship.
Kids learn through repetition, but they can get easily discouraged. Encourage your child by cheering them to try again. Whether it's learning to tie shoes, or bake a cake from scratch, or build a house of cards, let them know its okay to fail one, two, or seven times.
No one likes to be bossed around. The way we speak to our children is the way they learn to speak... regardless of how we teach them to speak. They do, what we do.
For the exact same reason we should say please, "thank you" teaches them how to speak to others. It also shows them respect. Plain and simple.
What do you think about _____________?
There's no better way to get inside a child's mind then to ask them direct questions. A while ago, my older son was acting strange. He was mostly acting out and acting a little aggressive towards his brother. My first instinct was to get angry and label him as being naughty. But I paused for a moment, and in a calm voice, I said, "Hey buddy. What's wrong?"
At first he resisted the conversation and kept struggling. But he eventually opened up and told me that he was sad. We got to the bottom of the problem, but I never would have known about it had I not just asked.
Let's do [favorite activity] together!
To a child, no gift is more precious than time spent together. How many times has your son or daughter begged, "Daddy, come play catch!" or "Mom, look at this tower I built." I know I personally get swept up in the day-to-day duties of motherhood and homemaking. I know I utter those words "in a minute" way too many times. I try consciously to do more of their favorite activities with them, and when I do I see a remarkable boost in their mood and behavior.
Resist the urge to clean or work or read emails or check Facebook one too many times. Give in and enjoy those moments together. Let that be a Christmas gift to your child this year - the gift of time.
Wife & Mama with a passion for peaceful parenting, natural living, homeschooling... and my daily café au lait.