Watching my kids get off the school bus every day is a special treat for me. They bound down the steps like prisoners set free, looking back and giggling as their friends call to them from the windows. Once their big, yellow ride is out of sight, they turn and head toward home, just a few houses down. I have a clear view of their path from my front porch, and I can often discern how their day went by observing their gait. Most days they race each other to the mailbox, or skip along the curb toting a prize they received in class. Other days they leap off that bus, not a care in the world, but as they start toward the house I can see it hit them: I have to tell mom what happened today. The skip slows to a walk and then to a trudge with head hanging low as they confess the bad grade, the poor behavior, the hurtful interaction with a classmate.
With a limited realm of life experience, these simple slip-ups can truly feel like the end of the world to a child, especially if they are repeated. Of course we want our children to be their best selves, but they need to be reassured they are capable of better. I do not suggest children be coddled or go undisciplined. As parents, though, we must recognize that words matter, and if we want our children to realize their potential, we must speak that truth to them.
Here are 15 affirmations your child needs to hear from you:
1. You are a good boy/girl.
2. You belong in this family, and nothing will ever change that.
3. You have an important contribution to make in the world.
4. You make me happy.
5. I am so proud to be your parent!
6. You can make good choices.
7. You are such a good friend.
8. I love your mind/the way you think!
9. You are a good listener.
10. You are the only you, and you’re the very best at being you!
11. I like you just the way you are. (Thanks, Mr. Rogers).
12. You can do hard things.
13. You are so smart!
14. You have a good heart.
15. I will always love you.
Say these things often. Say them when your child is upset. Say them when your child is happy. Say them randomly while you’re driving or while your child is playing video games. Whisper them in her ear as you kiss her goodnight.
Say them even if you don’t entirely believe them right now.
When my son has had a hard time listening, I am intentional about telling him he’s a good listener. When my daughter struggles through her homework, I make a point to compliment her intellect. When my kids are being selfish, I tell them they are good friends, and that good friends share. Your children are capable of doing amazing things! Sometimes they just need that encouragement that they can, even when they haven’t.