Many parents strive for perfection in raising their kids. This is an unrealistic goal, to say the least, and it’s not how mom and dad should be focusing their efforts. Making all the right decisions, doing all the right things and being infallible — that’s not what children need from their parents and it’s not what they want. They just want to be seen, valued and loved unconditionally.
According to child psychologist Dr. Robert Myers, children who feel important and worthy have higher self-esteem, a more positive outlook on life and healthier relationships. He also points out that these children tend to have an easier time handling conflict, are more respectful of others and are generally more well-rounded individuals.
As parents, we have the power to show our children just how much they matter to us — in what we say, in what we do and in how we act. In fact, in my 14 years of being a mom, I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact that my behavior has on my children’s sense of self-worth.
Here are 19 super-simple things that I try to do regularly to show my kids how much they mean to me:
1. Tell them you love them
This one’s at the top of my list simply because it’s the easiest and most powerful way to let your kids know how much they matter to you.
Hug them, kiss them and tell them “I love you” every single day. You can even say how lucky you feel to be their parent — and say it often. These seem like such little things, but for kids, it makes a world of difference to hear their parents express genuine affection for them.
2. Ask them about their day
Always ask about their day to show them that you’re interested in what goes on in their lives — the good, the bad and the ugly.
3. Give them your undivided attention
When you ask them a question, or when they’re trying to tell you about something, make sure to give them your undivided attention. Put the phone down and look them in the eyes as they’re speaking.
4. Give praise when praise is due
Praise them when they’ve done something worthy of praise. Tell them you’re proud of them for even the smallest of accomplishments.
5. Say “you” more
Make a conscious effort to begin or end sentences with the word “you.” “You are funny,” or “I like reading books with you.” This is a subtle way to ensure the focus of your words is on them.
6. Remind them of their strengths
Regularly remind them of all of their good qualities, and encourage them to continue honing those strengths.
7. Spend more quality together
Take some time to engage in one-on-one activities. They don’t need to be anything fancy: a simple walk will do. Even if it’s only for a short time, it’s quality time that you’re dedicating to them.
8. Set clear boundaries
They may not like them, but they respect them — and they know they need them.
9. Laugh with them
Laughter isn’t only the best medicine — it’s also the best way to bring people closer together. Sharing in an experience that makes you both laugh reinforces and strengthens your connection to each other.
10. Show up
Attend their extracurricular actives as often as you can. Even if you can’t stay the whole time, just showing up speaks volumes.
11. Push them — but not too hard
Encourage them to try harder, while acknowledging the progress they’ve already made.
12. Respect their space and their feelings
…Even when you can’t relate. Letting them know that you hear them is all that matters.
13. Know what’s going on at school
Try to forge relationships with their teachers, and keep yourself apprised of what projects and assignments they’re working on. Let them know that you’re around if they need help with homework, and if something is beyond your knowledge, don’t be afraid to hire a tutor or homework helper to step in.
14. Don’t talk down to them
They may be little, but they’re still humans and deserve to be treated with respect.
15. Know who their friends are
Make the effort to actually know their friends’ names — not just, “That girl with the blonde hair” or “That kid who wears a lot of purple.” And make sure to ask about them often.
16. Let them into your world
Open up and give them a glimpse into your own vulnerabilities (when appropriate). Just make sure you’re still respecting the boundaries that you set, and that you’re not “oversharing.” At the end of the day, you’re still the parent, and they’re still the child.
17. Ask them what they think
Ask for their opinions on things and respect their ideas. You don’t have to agree with them on everything; the important part is to make them feel heard.
18. Be patient with them
Forgive them for their mistakes and remind them that you make mistakes, too.
19. Acknowledge when you’re wrong
If you make a mistake or are wrong about something, don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry.” Not only will they appreciate your self-awareness and humility, but they’ll also be more likely to learn from your example.