Kudos to the kids

“I love you” starts to lose its meaning when it is mumbled at the end of a phone call or used as enticement for another piece of cake. But we all yearn to be told those three magic words, to be told how much we mean and matter.

Our children hear us telling them we love them “to the moon and back,” and that our love is so powerful that we “want to gobble you up!” And while that feels good to hear and say, it isn’t very specific.

Don’t you feel good when you are complimented on something special? Your posture, singing voice, creativity, humor, baking skills? It shows you are noticed for that little something extra that sets you apart. It goes beyond a rushed iluvu.

During this signature month of love, let’s focus on showing our kiddos the “why” behind our devotion. Take it deeper than their looks—your kids are more than “such a handsome/pretty one!” What is that sparks inside your littles that makes them them?

Here are some ways to let your children, family, friends and spouses know how special they are to you. Try to be as specific as possible and relate an action or situation to your praise.

  • “I admire your confidence.”
  • “Your laugh makes my day better.”
  • “You are such a good friend to _________.”
  • “The world needs more kind people like you.”
  • “Do you see how animals are so calm around you?”
  • “Your imagination is amazing!”
  • “You make a room brighter when you walk in.”
  • “That was so brave when you tried _________. I want to try something that’s scary to me now, too.”

These little confidence boosts mean so much, especially when kids probably hear a lot of what they do wrong in a day. Isn’t it interesting that we cling to all of the nasty bits we hear about ourselves and rarely recall the praise?

I know I’m lucky that I have naturally curly hair (even though I always wanted long stick-straight locks), and it is something people have always admired. Once, over three decades ago, a girl in middle school came up to me asking me why I had braided my hair because it “looked really weird.” A zillion compliments on my hair, and to this day, whenever I braid my hair, I hear her voice.

I read once that it takes five compliments to make up for one negative comment. Please keep that ratio in mind when you are telling your kid how messy their room is, how their homework is wrong, how they are mean to their brother, what a picky eater they are. Those stack up fast.

Let’s pinky swear that we will start and end the day with telling our kids something they do that is wonderful. Then all of the crud that builds up on them during the day will at least be sandwiched with delicious love bread.

Maggie Knowles writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.

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