Parenting Hellosaurus

3 Intentional Ways to Show Your Child Love!

When children feel secure and loved at home, they develop stronger self-esteem and feel more comfortable exploring their identities (Wanless, 2016). How do we ensure our kids feel secure and supported? In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are three ways you can show your child love, providing them the security they need to become the best version of themselves.

Practice Praising

Practice Praise - Mom and Child Intentional and meaningful praise nurtures your child’s confidence and individuality (Dweck, 2007). Because words can make a lasting impact, there are a few important things to consider when praising your child.

Educators and psychologists have identified two types of praise: person-praise and process-praise (Pomerantz & Kempner, 2013). Person-praise emphasizes the stable characteristics of a child, whereas process-praise focuses on progress on a specific task. Though it can be tempting to shower your child with person-praise – with compliments like “you’re so smart!” or “you’re a great artist” – using process-praise (e.g., “I am so proud of how hard you worked on this!”) can better help your child develop a growth mindset. When you praise your child’s effort, they learn that traits like intelligence are malleable, not fixed (Dweck, 2007).

But everybody knows that parenting – and praising – isn’t easy. If you have limited time with your child throughout the day, or if praising your child doesn’t always feel natural, you can also plan ways to fit praise into your daily routine. Here are a few activities you can try:

  • Bedtime Praise: End each day by highlighting one thing your child did that day that made you really proud.
  • Play-Time Praise: While playing together, take time to notice your child’s process. Pay attention to, and praise, their growth.
  • Praise Post-Its (for older children): Write praises on post-its for your child to find. You can leave them in their lunch box, at the breakfast table, or on the bathroom mirror. Finding this little surprise can make your child’s day.

Listening is Love

Family Walking Together From a young age, kids can tell when we’re preoccupied; actively listening to your child shows that you are interested in what they have to say. Research also shows that listening to your child facilitates a line of honest communication and accentuates the importance of good listening skills (Smith, 1993).

Here are a few tips to show your child that you’re really listening:

  • Repetition: Strategically repeat what your child says. This is a key component of Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), an evidence-based intervention for helping caregivers improve physical and verbal communications with their children (Funderburk & Sheila, 2011). When playing together, if your child says, “I’m going to stack the red block on the green block,” you can repeat “Oh I see, you’re stacking the red block on the green block.” In addition to letting your child know they have your full attention, this repetition also encourages communication and helps to clarify what your child is trying to say.
  • Recall: When your child mentions something they are excited about, take note and bring it up at a later time.
  • Daily Connect Time: Set aside time to talk to your child about their day. Try to eliminate distractions (like screens) and dedicate this time to prioritizing conversation.

Play-Time Partners

Family Dance Party Set aside some unstructured time just to be together – play, be silly, and have fun. Play is an important way for your child to explore and test their hypotheses about the world (Ginsburg, 2007). When playing together, try to follow your child’s lead. Let your child take risks and explore, with the comfort that you are there to protect them. In addition to the foundational bond that play-time can help develop, research also shows that sharing joy while playing can actually help reduce your child’s stress (Yogman et al., 2018).

Here are a few ways to create unstructured fun time with your child:

  • Child’s Choice: Set aside 15 minutes to do an activity of your child’s choice.
  • Silly Sunday: Make pancakes together, listen to music and dance around.
  • Pretend Play: Let your child choose a pretend play situation. Then enter your child’s imaginative world.

References Dweck, C. S. (2007). The secret to raising smart kids. Scientific American Mind, 18(6), 36-43.

Funderburk, B. W., & Eyberg, S. (2011). Parent–child interaction therapy.

Ginsburg, K. R., & Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics, 119(1), 182-191.

Pomerantz, E. M., & Kempner, S. G. (2013). Mothers’ daily person and process praise: Implications for children’s theory of intelligence and motivation. Developmental Psychology, 49(11), 2040–2046.

Smith, C. (1993). How Can Parents Model Good Listening Skills?

Wanless, S. B. (2016). The role of psychological safety in human development. Research in Human Development, 13(1), 6-14.

Yogman, M., Garner, A., Hutchinson, J., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M., Baum, R., ... & COMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH. (2018). The power of play: A pediatric role in enhancing development in young children. Pediatrics, 142(3).

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