Written by Pam Barnhill of Ed Snapshots.
I just knew my daughter was lying to me. What I was hearing was so incredible I couldn’t believe she would even craft such a silly lie and expect me to believe it. Not too mention I was right in the middle of a workout, which always makes me extremely grumpy anyway.
I exploded at her — for lying, for interrupting me, for breaking my concentration on the stupid set of side lunges.
I sent her outside to play, but she tearfully explained as she went out the door. It took me about two minutes to realize I had misunderstood. I fumed at myself for the rest of the workout, berating myself for flying off the handle about something inconsequential.
As soon as I was finished I sought her out to say I was sorry.
We talk a lot as homeschool moms. We will find ourselves explaining, questioning, making requests, giving commands, admonishing. In the midst of all that chatter, though, there are five things that our kids really need to hear us say.
Kids need to hear “I’m sorry” for the same reasons everyone else does. We seek forgiveness from each other to heal wounds and restore peace and goodwill.
When we have wronged each other, hard feelings remain – and build over time – unless we ask for forgiveness with repentance and true remorse. It makes no difference when the wronged party is under the age of 18.
Yet kids need to hear parents say they are sorry for another reason. They need us to model repentance. Kids learn, especially in areas of character, by imitating us. When we make a sincere apology for both big and small slights, it not only restores their feelings of self-worth, but also shows them how admit they are wrong and ask for forgiveness sincerely.
“You worked so hard on that!”
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I was so smart as a kid, I would be rich too.
Sure, the words built up my self-esteem, but it would only come crashing back down again when I was faced with a task that required some kind of effort on my part. Or my knee-jerk mantra to any task I couldn’t easily do was, “I’m not any good at that.”
I spent years thinking I was horrible at math.
The problem is, we often focus our praise of kids on things totally beyond their control: “You’re so smart” or “Aren’t you pretty” when what we should be praising is their efforts and character.
We should praise that they tried hard or were helpful to their little brother, because those things are totally within their ability to do again. And we want them to do just that.
“Finish the job.”
This is a hard one because it can feel so mean, but this tough love is a huge character builder for our kids.
Whether it is the math page or the basketball season, learning to finish the job when things become difficult or we lose motivation is extremely important.
Like our focus on efforts, teaching kids to stick with a difficult task will build their long-term esteem.
Yes, a child’s discontent with the math page could signal real math struggles, and an unwillingness to play ball anymore could result from issues with others on the team that should not be ignored. As parents we have to be as aware and responsive to these kinds of difficulties as we can.
I find that in many cases, though, the reluctance to finish is just as likely the kid being human, and a little encouragement can get them over the hump to completion.
“I really like the way you _______.” (Fill in the blank with something specific).
I really like the way you used strong verbs in this paragraph. I really like the way you cleaned up your place after lunch. I really like the way you used the dictionary to figure out the word you didn’t know.
Our default praise as parents is “Good job!” It sounds great, but lacks very much substance and has the tendency to be vastly overused in parenting circles.
Specific praise, on the other hand, sends a clear message to the child exactly what they have done well, increases their motivation to repeat those actions, and encourages them to continue to work hard.
“I love you.”
Depending on your personality and parenting style, this may be something you don’t verbalize often.
Sure, you love your kids. Do you tell them?
Kids are developing their ideas about the world and sometimes end up with erroneous ones about how love works.
We love them unconditionally. Yet they worry if that love is lost after they have disappointed us or we have acted angrily. Plus, kids are not always adept at reading social cues, so they need to be frequently, verbally reminded that we do love them, all the time.
Our goal should be to slow down and make these five things a regular part of our vocabulary — to build character, esteem, and create healthy relationships with our kids.
What things do you feel are important to say to your children?