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20 Things You Should Say to Your Kid Often

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We all know that saying the wrong thing can make a child feel hurt, angry, or confused. However, it’s just as important to say the right things. These 20 sentences will help your child feel valued and aid her development, so they’re worth saying often.

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By Lauren Katulka

We all know that saying the wrong thing can make a child feel hurt, angry, or confused. However, it’s just as important to say the right things. These 20 sentences will help your child feel valued and aid her development, so they’re worth saying often.

How did you do?

Nancy S. Buck, PhD., a developmental psychologist and the creator of Peaceful Parenting Inc., says this open-ended question encourages self-reflection. “Too often parents spend much of their time telling children how they did … ‘I can see you worked really hard,’ or ‘You didn’t mean to hurt your little brother, did you?’” she says.

I know you and I believe you can do it.

This sentence will give your child the extra confidence she needs when she’s daunted by a challenge ahead.

You worked so hard.

This approach stresses hard work rather than intelligence or natural talent. Comments like this stress that effort is important and encourage future hard work.

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How does that feel to do that on your own?

Whether it’s picking up her toys, dressing herself for the day, or finishing math homework, this question makes your child reflect on how success makes her feel. Achievement should be more about pleasing herself than gaining your approval. This is a great way to boost self-esteem.

What do you think?

This question encourages your child to form her own opinion and share it with you. This will improve your child’s critical thinking skills and reassure her that it’s okay to have an opinion that’s different from yours. “If parents do their children’s thinking for them, children stop taking responsibility for themselves, making it harder for them to learn to become critical thinkers who can handle greater freedom as they grow,” Buck says.

You are beautiful, inside and out.

This sentence helps children feel comfortable in their own skin. It also reminds them beauty goes beyond the surface. It’s especially important for daughters to hear from their fathers, as it ensures they don’t grow up looking for praise from boys.

You did a great job.

Positive reinforcement is a great motivator. Praise often, but don’t overdo it or your words will seem insincere.

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I’m so proud of you because…

Every child seeks parental approval. Starting off with these words is never a bad idea. Praising achievements like good grades or a tidy room will encourage your kid to keep up the good work. However, don’t limit it to concrete actions: tell your child you’re also proud of her patience, kind heart, or determination.

Your dad and I agree that…

Presenting as a united front tells your child she can’t play one parent off against the other. Your child is more likely to comply with your rules if she knows both parents agree.

How would you improve it?

“Asking this question goes to helping children think about improving and to the heart of their learning and understanding,” Buck says. The conclusions your child reaches can help her get better grades, perform better in sports, or even become a better friend.

Are you willing to do what it takes to improve it?

This question is related to the last, but it addresses a different idea. “Maybe she knows what she needs to do to improve her soccer ability, but she just doesn’t want to,” Buck suggests. “Her interests are elsewhere and that’s where she wants to spend her time and energy.” This is a perfectly valid judgment for your child to make, and one you should accept without criticism or correction. Doing so will ensure that your child continues to open up to you and answer honestly, rather than simply the way you want her to.

What are the consequences of that choice?

It’s tempting to make decisions for your child, but kids learn more when they make their own choices. Guide the process by reminding your child to consider the positive and negative consequences of any choice she makes.

I understand why you feel that way.

This validates your child’s perceptions, even if you disagree with them. Stating this before you offer advice or an alternative point of view empowers your child and makes her more receptive to your guidance.

I have your back.

Children feel safest when they know they have your support. Young children need this reassurance often, while older kids will likely need this reminder only when facing especially challenging circumstances.

You make me smile.

This sentence tells your child she can bring joy to you and others around her. It encourages her to engage in positive, smile-inducing behaviors.

You are worthy of respect, love, and success.

Reinforcing your child’s worth early will put her on the path to becoming a happy, well-adjusted adult.

Please and thank you.

Modeling good manners is the best way to ensure your child mimics this behavior. There are plenty of opportunities to use these vital words when interacting with your child.

Would you like to talk about it?

This reminds your child she doesn’t have to deal with her problems or worries alone. Be a good listener if your child takes you up on this offer, and she’ll be more comfortable coming to you the next time.

You can come to me for anything.

Don’t wait for your child to show signs of distress before offering your ears. It’s especially effective for children who struggle to express their emotions. Most parents want their child to turn to them in times of need, but unless these words are said she might not have the confidence.

I love you.

This sentence might be the most important one of all, as it reminds your child of her special place in your heart. “I never want this to be a regret,” Buck says.

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