As school starts in my neck of the woods today, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how to make your child feel appreciated.
Many of us moms are teary this time of year: our kids are growing up, as each new “first day of school” photo proves. And we start wondering: “am I doing a good job? Do my kids truly know that I love them?”
Lacey Hauptman sent me this post on 10 ways to help your child feel appreciated, and I thought today would be a great day to run it and remind us how to build those strong relationships so kids know that our love is rock solid.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Instilling discipline and good values in your child while making him feel loved can be quite tricky. You may not notice it, but in trying to make them godly and morally upright, sometimes you end up being more critical than nurturing. I know for a fact that I have been guilty of this more often than I’d like to admit. Despite our better judgment, sometimes we parents are quicker to spot mistakes than we are when it comes to praising and showing appreciation for our kids.
Parents should balance this out by regularly making children feel that their efforts, skills, talents, and opinions are being noticed and appreciated as well. It’s healthier for their self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.
Follow the suggestions below to ease yourself into becoming more appreciative of your child:
1. Listen to your children
Most kids can be talkative, and when they talk they tend to gravitate toward topics that may not necessarily interest some grown-ups. Because of this, most parents tend to disregard what their kids say as “nonsense.”
If this sounds like something you may have been unconsciously doing, then for starters, you need to learn how to listen attentively to your child. Know that there’s a fine line between listening and hearing. Just because they are young, doesn’t mean that what they have to say is any less important. Make your child feel that what he has to say is valuable. Don’t brush him off in favor of work or other responsibilities. Or if you really can’t talk at the moment, tell your child nicely that you’ll talk to him soon when you’re done with work. The key here is to still make him feel like you care, and that what he has to say matters to you.
Listening to your kid’s stories is also a good way to get to know him. Treasure the days that your child still tells you about his day. You’ll miss it when he gets older.
2. Encourage self-expression
When your child does something that goes against your idea of the “perfect” son or daughter, it’s easy to go berserk and feel bad for not raising them properly. The next time this happens, try to reflect on what your child is trying to express instead of immediately judging him. He may actually have a point. Letting your child know that he can always open up to you about what he feels, positive or negative, will foster a strong bond between you two that he will carry through to adulthood.
3. Allow him to pursue his interests
My husband is a photographer, and he loves to take pictures of our family. As a result, our son became interested in photography at the early age of six. He begged us to get him his very own camera for his seventh birthday (which was a few months ago), and obviously we couldn’t get him a professional DSLR like the one his dad uses. But after doing some research on kid-friendly cameras and shopping around online, we eventually got him a sturdy Nikon point-and-shoot for him to practice with.
If your child is interested in a certain hobby, don’t discourage him just because he is young. If he your child wants to try painting, encourage him to do so. If your child is into music, enroll him in a music class. There are a ton of ways you can support your kid and show him that you appreciate his interest in honing his talents and skills.
4. Praise your kid for a job well done
To praise or not to praise? Much debate has been going around on whether praise is good or bad for a child. Some say that giving children too much praise and encouragement may lead to a sense of entitlement and an overestimation of their talents and abilities—some may even grow up into narcissists. But as with everything, the key here is balance. Remember when you were a child and you wanted so bad to be recognized for your achievements? Your child wants the same, too.
There’s nothing wrong with giving children constructive criticism, but it is important to give adequate, well-deserved praise as well.
5. Hug more often
The power of a parent’s touch doesn’t end after your child grows past the infant stage. Believe it or not, hugging your child often can do wonders in making him feel comforted and secured. Does your child find hugging awkward? A pat on the back or on the head would suffice.
6. Go on dates with your child
Source: McDonald’s Australia YouTube Channel
When my son doesn’t have school, I sometimes take him with me when I run my errands. And afterwards, we’d drive to the nearest ice cream shop and reward ourselves with a banana split or a mint chocolate chip cone. Lately, however, his favorite mother-son dates involve going to the park or the beach to do little photo shoots with his new camera, with me serving obligingly as his model.
Memories of your bonding moments together will stay in your child’s heart forever. Spend some time with your child whenever you can. If possible, let him pick what he wants to do. Or just like in the video above, take your child out to eat his favorite food. You don’t have to do anything fancy. Just let your kid have your undivided attention. He will surely appreciate that.
7. Say “I love you”
This may be hard to do when you grew up in a non-affectionate family. But it’s never too late to start making changes in your own home. Even if your child grows up to the point where he cringes at the thought of hearing his parent say “I love you,” he would still appreciate that you do.
8. Keep your word
Just as you would honor your word with your friends and colleagues, do the same with your child. He will respect you more if you know how to keep your promises. And if you won’t be able to follow through, explain why. Even if you feel that your child is too young to understand, it’s still better than not saying anything.
9. Do little favors for your child
Or sneak in small surprises for him when you can. A special surprise treat (along with a sweet little note) in his lunch box or a day off from doing chores just because can go a long way in making your child feel special and loved.
10. Allow your child to take part in family decisions
Most parents tend to make all the decisions for the household. And while this usually makes sense with younger kids, it’s a whole other story when the kids are older and able to comprehend such decisions. My parents left me and my siblings out of any decision making until we were well into our early twenties, and it made us feel that they did not think we were mature enough to understand or comprehend whatever was going on. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional on their part to make us feel a certain way, but of course it would have been better if we had been included.
Except for sensitive matters, there’s no harm in letting your child take part in your family’s decision-making. This will empower your child and make him feel that his opinion is valued and that he is a vital part of the family.
Making your child feel appreciated early on in life can have dramatic effects in the way he views himself and the world. So don’t hold off on the appreciation. Show your child that you value what he is and what he can become as a person.
Lacey Hauptman is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and stay-at-home mom, as well as an animal lover, a frustrated fashionista, a hopeless romantic, and a Harry Potter nerd. When she’s not fulfilling her wife and mom duties, she enjoys reading YA fiction (which she’s probably too old for) or writing stories, poems, essays, and more.