I think one of the toughest things about being a parent is making peace with the mistakes you make. We all want to give our children the best in life, but we are human and often come up short. Coming up short can mean so many things, but one of the most common ways that parents actually come up short is by failing to tell their kids what they need to hear most.
We buy nice Christmas gifts for our kids, plan great birthday celebrations, and make sure their education is a priority—but we often forget the simple stuff. What do our little ones yearn for the most? What are the words that will resonate with them and impact their lives in powerful way?
It can be tough to say the right thing when we aren’t quite sure what it is. Furthermore, what our kids need to hear us say the most can change, based on where they are in their childhood. But, believe it or not, regardless of how old your kids are, some phrases are just as important when they turn 16 as they were when they were 6. Their basic needs don’t change all that much, and the words you say to make them feel special and loved can turn out to be what they remember most about their childhood.
Here are 9 things that your kids need to hear consistently. Feel free to change how you say them, because what truly matters is whether or not the kids are getting the message behind your words. If it’s coming from a place of love, I think they’ll get it for sure.
- I’ll always love you, no matter what. As parents we assume that our children know we will always love them, but that isn’t always the case. Children often fear losing a parent’s love and approval if they do something perceived as “bad.” It’s important to remind your kids that no matter what happens, even if they make a huge mistake, you will always, always love them.
- Let’s have some fun. Our lives are so busy, and we can get so caught up in our day-to-day routines that we forget to relax and just have a good time with our kids. Try not to have your scheduled so jam packed that you can’t just unexpectedly do something fun with your kids. Come home, turn on some music, and have a dance contest for 15 minutes. They’ll remember that!
- Don’t worry if you made a mistake. I can help you if you’d like. Whether it’s spilling milk or breaking something important, kids need to know that genuine mistakes are okay and are not the end of the world. Offer your help to make things right, and let them know that making a mistake is simple a chance to learn a lesson. They need to know that life is full of mistakes. You try your best to fix it, and then you move on.
- I’m really proud of you. Kids who grow up feeling like their parents aren’t proud turn into adults who feel the same way. The feeling stays with them always. Take the time to let your kids know that you are proud of their efforts, their accomplishments, and the person they are.
- Everyone is not your friend, and that’s okay. When kids are in preschool, many teachers tell them that everyone in class is their friend, but that isn’t always true. I have seen instances of 3-year-olds who are mean to other kids consistently. Let your kids know that it is okay if everyone is not a friend. They just need to be kind to others—true friendship will come.
- Let’s move and have some fun. We teach our children the importance of moving and getting exercise. Make physical activity fun and ask your kids to join you for some dancing, car washing, hide-n-seek, or anything else that makes everyone get up and move while having a good time.
- I made a mistake. I’m sorry. Our children need to know that we are not perfect and we can admit when we’ve made a mistake. If you know you messed up, tell your kid sorry and explain why. This sets a great example and shows them that the mark of a true leader is someone who can admit when they are wrong.
- Tell me about the highs and lows of your day. Don’t just ask your kids if they had a good day. Be specific. When you ask them to share highs and lows, you get to address any concerns they have while also getting to know more about who they are as a person.
- Silence. Often times our kids don’t need to hear a word. They just need a warm embrace and a moment of silence with you. That can make all the difference.
BMWK family, what are some things you think your kids need to hear?