Smiling mom being hugged by her young daughter


Talk Your Kids Happy!

10 easy ways to do it

Words have tremendous power, and our messages can affect our children even more than we realize. Paul Axtell, author of Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids, shares the positive statements that can bolster a child’s ego and instill a profound sense of security. 

  1. I like you. “This is a different statement from ‘I love you,’” says Axtell. “This… says ‘I like who you are as a person.’” He encourages parents to use them both. 
  2. You’re a fast learner. Young children love learning and they’re good at it. Encouraging that desire early on impacts how they’ll feel about learning later on in life, emphasizes Axtell, when it can become more of a challenge.
  3. Thank you. “Social skills are critical in life, and the best training for tact and grace starts early,” stresses the author.
  4. How about we agree to... A little diplomacy goes a long way in helping a family work out their dilemmas. “Having agreements in place helps avoid common issues and provides a framework within which to solve problems when they do arise,” says Axtell. 
  5. Tell me more. Is there anything that shows greater interest on your part when talking with your child? Inviting them to share their thoughts and feelings with you “involves learning to listen,” he explains, “which is always a gift because it signals that you care.”
  6. Let’s read. Open a book at bedtime and you open your child to a world of possibilities. As Axtell notes, reading instills a love of learning – about people, places and ideas – and helps kids build the skills they need to succeed in life. 
  7. We all make mistakes. Perhaps one of the most empathic statements on the list, this normalizes the underlying message, reassuringly: No one is perfect.” Dealing with problems and learning from mistakes are vital life skills,” says Axtell. “When you have a moment in which you don’t live up to your own standards, it’s an opportunity to show your children how to take responsibility for mistakes and move on.” 
  8. I’m sorry. Not an easy one all the time, but invaluable nonetheless. Axtell stresses the importance of learning to catch yourself before you say something you might regret later on.
  9. What do you think? Asking your kids for their opinions and feedback in family conversations gives them the space to become more comfortable expressing their ideas. Just as important, he adds, it allows them to develop their ability to make decisions and take responsibility for them. 
  10. Yes. “While I do think ‘no’ is… a viable option at times, too often parents are a ‘no’ waiting to happen,” says Axtell. If you create a pattern of ‘yes’ in your family, you’ll find that ‘no’ doesn’t need to be said as often as you think.”