Family, Kids & Relationships

10 positive things your toddler needs to hear every day

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Sometimes parenting young kids can feel like an endless list of chores to do and rules to enforce. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of raising kids and forget to make space for moments to connect with each other and to let them know they’re special.

Teaching little ones the basics like manners and personal responsibility is really important, of course—but if you often reflect on your day with your child and mostly remember giving them directions or scolding them, it could be helpful to take steps to create more positive interactions with your kid. 

Psychological research has shown that having affectionate and warm caregivers can have lifelong positive impacts on a person’s happiness and mental health. Plus, being kind and encouraging to your child has the added benefit of strengthening your relationship with each other—which can help other (less fun) parts of parenting go a little more smoothly.

Here are 10 examples of things you can say to your little ones to boost their self-esteem and reinforce your connection:

  1. You make me smile.  Very young kids are still learning how to identify and express their feelings. Smiling is the universal expression for happiness, and letting your kid know that your smile is because of them can be a really nice boost!
  1. I love you no matter what.  Your kid knows you love them, of course—but when they make a mistake they may need some extra reassurance that your love for them is unconditional.
  1. I like you.  It may seem strange, but it can be really uplifting for a kid to hear that their parent genuinely likes them as a person, rather than only loving them as family. 
  1. I love being your parent.  This one is great because it shifts their perspective and shows them that, not only do you love them because they are your child, but you love the life that comes along with raising them.
  1. I saw you doing your best.  Letting them know that you’re interested in what they’re doing and that you appreciate the effort they’re making regardless of the outcome is a great way to help your little ones feel more confident.
  1. I’m listening.  It can be really empowering for kids to know that they have your attention when they want to share something important with you—even if that something is the really annoying new sound they just learned how to make.
  1. Thank you for helping out.  Rather than expecting your child to respect your wishes simply because you’re their parent, it can be more helpful in the long-term for the respect to go both ways. Showing appreciation for your kids when they clean up after themselves or share their toys can foster more of these positive behaviors in the future.
  1. You should be proud of yourself.  Telling your child that you’re proud of them for whatever small achievements they make throughout the day is definitely a great way to boost their confidence—but, encouraging them to take pride in their own little wins is an even better way to build them up in the long run. This phrase can help make kids more self-motivated, rather than relying on motivation from others. 
  1. I’m here if you need me.  Kids need more independence as they grow, but knowing a parent is accessible if needed is truly comforting, no matter your age. Allowing your little one some freedom while reminding them that you are there if anything comes up is a great way to build their confidence in making decisions for themselves.
  1. Great idea!  As children explore and play, they’re constantly learning. It can be really helpful to notice when they’re thinking creatively or using good problem-solving skills, and call it out to them! This habit will encourage them to use more of these important skills as they learn about the world around them.

It might even be helpful to print out this list, or write these 10 phrases down and put them somewhere you’ll notice them during your day. Especially at first, as you get into the habit of using positive reinforcement more frequently, it can be helpful to have a visual cue to remind you to start building more positive interactions with your child into your day. 

Once you’ve spent a few weeks working these confidence boosters into your daily life with your kid, it should start to come more naturally to you. Make some space to evaluate how your relationship with your child has evolved. It can be truly amazing to see the transformation that can occur when a child is given enthusiastic support and encouragement from their family. 

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.