A friend recently confided in me that she was scared of saying anything nice or boosting to her child because of all the recommendations of not saying “good job” to kids these days. In fact, she said that with all the recommendations of what not to say and what not to do, it’s become so hard to trust that anything we do as parents is ok. We talked a lot about balance, limits and trusting our instincts and so today I want to share 6 things I believe we should not be afraid to say to our children:
I am sorry: It’s not only ok to apologize to our children, it’s really important because it models what to do when we do something we are not proud of or something we regret. If you yell or lose your cool, it’s important to apologize and restore the connection. On the other hand, if you find yourself constantly needing to say you are sorry, it may be a sign that it’s time to pause and reflect on your choices.
NO: Yes, it is really important to create a yes environment and provide alternatives to simply stating NO all the time. Yet, there are moments when saying No will be absolutely necessary and in the best interest of our children. That moment will depend on your family values and the limits you find important to set for your family, and sure there are ways to saying it positively and if used sparingly it also retains its actual effect.
My four year old wanted a toy from a store the other day. First, I told him he could put it on his wish list. Usually this is all my son needs to move on, but this day, the toy was just so tempting! Having a hard time letting go of his wish, my son asked for it again.
Sensing his difficulty, I knew it was time to be decisive. I knelt down and empathized, “The toy looks like great fun. I know it’s hard to walk away, I know you really, really want it AND the answer is NO.” I gave him a hug, and then we left, holding hands. Yes my son was a bit sad, but he understood this limit.
Stringing him on with promises of another day or pleading for him to move along in this case for us would just make things worse. A kind and firm final answer of NO, was needed so we could move on.
Please wait: Being a responsive parent is very important, it shows our children we care about them and helps them feel secure that their needs will be met. However, it’s going be important for children to develop some waiting skills and patience to deal with certain situations in life. As the mom to three children, I often find myself having to divide my attention, so I try to do this with as much love and care as possible. For example, before I ask my children to wait, I often give them a short explanation and the order in which things will happen so they have a better sense of what to expect. “I need to make a quick phone call, then we can play a game. Please wait for me in the play room.” I also keep the waiting time appropriate to their individual abilities.
I made a mistake: We all make them, from losing our cool to making a decision we later regret, mistakes are sort of a given in life and well, parenting! Showing our children we can admit to our mistakes, reflect on them and choose better next time is very important skill, one they can learn by having a safe space in which to make their own mistakes and even more so if they have the chance to hear us own up to our own mistakes.
I am proud of you: It’s not only ok but important to tell our children we believe in them and that we are proud of them. Choose the time carefully, obviously saying “I’m proud of you” while your child is chucking his toys over the balcony sends the wrong message. But at the end of the day, while cuddling together and offering a great big hug and “I’m proud of you!” is a moment your child will cherish forever. Even better is to be very specific “ I am so proud that you worked hard on your book report and didn’t give up, even when it seemed to be tricky, you stuck to it and look at what you accomplished!”
I’m a bit busy, can you do it alone? It’s important to be present and involved and helpful to our children. It’s really important to encourage our children to explore doing things on their own too. I don’t believe in rushing independence for independence sakes but giving opportunities to our children to do things alone, when appropriate, even when there are struggles is really a wonderful chance for children to learn all sorts of skills.
My daughter wanted an apple recently and I was helping my son with something else. I asked “What if you get the apple yourself?” She beamed with happiness at this prospect and she took off, found her chair, found the apple, washed it, dried, showed it to me “I do it myself!” and then happily sat down to eat it.
What kind of parenting advice have you run into lately that has made you rethink your choices?
Peace & Be Well,
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