Encouraging Things to Say to Kids

January 12, 2012 at 10:49 am (Positive Discipline)

“A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.” ~Rudolph Dreikurs

Here is a list of encouraging phrases to say to kids. Some of these examples fit many kinds of scenarios, and others are responses I’ve said to my kids about something specific that happened. I try to say these kinds of things daily, and, once I understood what makes a response encouraging (as opposed to praising, belittling, fixing, etc.), it’s actually not very difficult to fit them into conversation.

Every day my kids have opportunities to feel proud and to want me to encourage them even further. But rather than say, “Good job, that makes me so happy,” I try to find a way to focus it on their efforts. In short, encouraging statements keep the task/ action/ problem/ accomplishment about the child, not about the parent.

Every positive discipline tool is designed to encourage chidden, help them feel capable, and connect us closer to each other. All of these phrases acknowledge and appreciate something positive about a child and are encouraging words to hear:

  • I love you.
  • I’m sure you can find a way to solve this problem.
  • Boy, you worked so hard on that! It really shows.
  • I have faith in you to figure it out.
  • I know you don’t like doing this, and I thank you for doing it anyway. It really helps.
  • The amount of detail you added to this drawing makes it seem so life-like.
  • You must feel so proud of yourself right now!
  • Your eyes easily spotted the quickest way through that maze.
  • I noticed that you’ve been working hard at cutting your own food.
  • You did it!
  • Thank you for putting all of our towels in the laundry. It helps us get ready much faster.
  • Trust yourself.
  • It sounds like your body is trying to tell you something.
  • I noticed how long you stuck with that.
  • You have the right to feel angry.
  • I can tell that some special mom/ dad time would help you right now.
  • How do you feel about what you accomplished?
  • I appreciate your cooperation.
  • Thanks for helping.
  • What do you think?
  • What do you need to do to accomplished your goal?
  • I’m listening.
  • That was hard for you; thank you!
  • I can see you are really angry right now, and that’s OK.
  • What would you do about it?
  • I just want to sit and be close to you for a few minutes.
  • It’s OK to be sad.
  • I appreciate you setting the table so neatly.
  • Wow!
  • I know you are upset. I would be too.
  • You can try again tomorrow.
  • What is your understanding of what needs to happen?
  • Your piggy bank is getting really full; it must have taken you a long time to save all that.
  • You decide.
  • I have faith that we can find a respectful solution.
  • Look at what you’ve accomplished!
  • You are capable.
  • Thank you for getting dressed so quickly.
  • I noticed you gave your toy to that boy when he was sad. I bet it helped him feel better.
  • What is your plan for getting this done?
  • I’m sorry.
  • I love you.
  • You lead the way.

For even more encouraging things to say, my ebook is available for download to iBook, Kindle and Nook!

 

41 Comments

  1. change5553 said,

    What a great list. Every parent should post these where they can read them daily until encouragement becomes a habit. Thanks

  2. Anne Dovel (@AnneDovel) said,

    Thanks!

  3. Cindy Marie Jenkins said,

    Quite a beautiful list, thank you!

  4. Kim said,

    Awesome list, love it!

  5. Hela Donela said,

    This is good.
    Why not print the list out and have it on the fridge?
    It is good to have something positive to look at when feeling the opposite or tense!

  6. Karen said,

    I am printing this list and hanging it on the fridge- thank you! To add something–Sometimes, I like to give my child a ‘script’ for their inner selves to follow. Ex/ “You are the kind of person who _____(cares for others, finishes what you start, can handle a challenge, etc)”

    • Lynn said,

      Love that idea too Karen…. I do the same with my kids!! Teaching positive self-talk and healthy self-esteem is crucial in my book!! :-)

  7. Alison said,

    great list!

  8. mudpiemama said,

    great list!! I will be sharing it on my sharing sunday if you don’t mind!

  9. Jo said,

    Thanks for this. I sometimes find it hard to think of encouraging things to say without making them sound like they’re about me and my approval.

  10. Heather said,

    I printed this off three times and put one on every floor of my house. LOVE IT! We already use many of these, but some are new and the reminder is always good :)

  11. Innovations in Education said,

    What a great list! I love that all of these encouragements acknowledge and show respect for the child, rather than offering mindless praise.

  12. Cathy said,

    These are great, but it’s also OK for a child to recognize that she has the capacity to give joy to someone she loves. I want my kid to know and appreciate that she makes me happy.

    • Carolyn shore said,

      That is a great list. You are a great mom. Love you

  13. Roseann Murphy/Little River School said,

    Lovely list….wonderful reminder that all of us need words of encouragement…

  14. Jenni said,

    I wanted to post an alternate idea — that sure, kids love encouragement, but that they need also to learn to have internal motivation. Not sure how to say that in a way that sounds bad though. So I’m posting some links instead:

    http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm

    http://www.educationreformbooks.net/punished.htm

    http://codenamemama.com/2010/06/02/good-job/

    • Kelly said,

      HI Jenni, thanks for those links. I am a huge fan of Alfie Kohn; Unconditional Parenting and Punished by Rewards are two of the books that opened my eyes to the detriments of reward-based parenting. I totally agree that aiming for a sense of internal motivation is a beneficial goal of parenting & discipline! Here are some links to some previous posts I wrote on alternatives to “good job” and other kinds of praise/ reward-based parenting that might interest you. Thanks so much for sharing these others!

      http://parentingfromscratch.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/three-alternatives-to-saying-good-job/

      http://parentingfromscratch.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/no-more-stickers/

      • Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said,

        Thanks for sharing my link, Jenni :) I love your list, Kelly – each of these phrases is so much more meaningful than a “good job.” They show a genuine interest in the child, and where relevant, in respecting the child’s feelings, helping the child figure out a solution, or otherwise making a connection.

  15. Chef Ivan said,

    Love your list. I say of them to my daughter everyday. Other times I don’t know what to say or how to time it to make it sincere. Your list has given me both. Thank you. My lovely daughter will thank you. I will pass this on to other parents.

  16. mythineats said,

    Hi Jenni,
    I think that this is an awesome blog especially because I am pregnant and really want to help my child out in the best and most positive way possible. I think that it’s great to point out all the positive ways to talk to our child. Thank you

  17. faithrises said,

    Thank-you for your post.This list is beautiful!!!!! Words are so pwerful and what we say to our children can make all the difference in how they feel about themselves and who they become!!

  18. david burdick said,

    I am takeing the list to work. Will use on staff patients and myself..

  19. Lovely Weekend Reading | The Parenting Passageway said,

    […] A list of encouraging things to say to your children:  http://parentingfromscratch.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/encouraging-things-to-say-to-kids/ […]

  20. buckeroomama said,

    I love this. Thank you for sharing!

  21. donamatthews said,

    beautiful! thank you for posting this!

  22. franchman said,

    Hi, nice list. What about ‘You are beautiful’.
    I personally believe that questions stress the child, even statements in form of questions isolate the child and require him /her to take responsibility when they need to feel stability in the parent. Try saying to your child ‘get in the car’ rather then ‘do you want to get in the car’ or ‘could you get in the car’. In effect the child has one less option to process and feels more secure. This concept comes from a powerful book titled ‘Simplicity Parenting’ by Kim Jonh Payne M.ED.

    • change5553 said,

      I disagree that questions stress the child. I believe commands stress the child. Physiologically, how do you feel when someone makes a command (or a demand)? For most of us the body stiffens (even if slightly) and the message that is sent to the brain is “resist.” On the other hand, when someone respectfully asks a question, the message that goes to the brain is “search for an answer.” In that process the child is invited to think and feel capable, and is more likely to cooperate. Of course, “Do you want to get in the car?” is not a good curiosity question. “What do you need to do before we can go?” or a choice: “Do you want to get in on the right side or the left side of the car?” “Get in the car,” can also be appropriate, but not because it is less stressful for the child.

      • Kelly said,

        Thank you, Jane. This is why I recommend your books to parents…”Positive Discipline” is so great for understanding how our language has an effect on kids’ behavior and on our relationships together. It’s a must-have on every parent’s bookshelf!

    • Kelly said,

      As Dr. Nelsen said above, I don’t think questions necessarily stress a child. I think they can, especially when they diminish a parent’s authority…too many questions can leave a child with the impression that there is no authority figure taking care of them. But questions that address a child’s well-being, or ones that prompt critical thinking, problem solving skills, or self reflection can be helpful for developing a sense of self efficacy. There are definitely appropriate questions as well as ones that aren’t so helpful, so I think it depends on the situation. I do agree with your example of getting into the car, and I do love Simplicity Parenting! Great book.

  23. stacy g said,

    fabulous. thank you for sharing.

  24. sarah waldin said,

    this is such a great resource for parents all around the world. I work with mothers suffering from post-natal depression and other mental health issues. I shared this with them all and they agreed that it is such a relief to have a resource for words they can say to their children that are positive and supportive, words that improve their relationship with their children at a time in their (the mom’s lives) when they are finding it tough to think of anything at all – let alone getting out of bed each day.
    love and light to you and yours.
    sarah xx

  25. Krista English said,

    Love the list and would like to add that I think having it posted in plain view might take away the authenticity and the parent’s good intention. If the kids see a list like this posted and mom start talking that way, they may not believe the words as much. Just a thought. I’d put it inside a journal, Bible or notebook to look at often. They are simple enough words that will become memorized quickly the more you use them.

  26. mythreeangels said,

    Lovely list. My new favorite is “I just want to sit and be close to you for a few minutes.” While I do this, i think it would add so much more to the moment if i said these words also. thank you.

  27. Kerry Davies said,

    Hi Kelly, could I please reproduce this article in a newsletter I edit for our members. Our newsletter is free and it is free to be a member of our organisation if you are a single mother. I would credit you and can publish the link to your blog as well. I think it is a wonderful list and the philosophy of encouragement over praise and dominance is lovely too! Thank you
    Kerry Davies
    Project Worker
    Council of Single Mothers and their Children Victoria Inc. (CSMC)
    Melbourne Australia
    http://www.csmc.org.au (so you can check us out if you need to)

  28. Faithrises said,

    Nice post! Reblogged this @ parentsonpost.com, and commented, “Great list! Encouraging words build confidence and self-esteem. :)

  29. Alma said,

    Love this! Thank u for sharing :D

  30. The Inverse Power of Praise « Jump In the Mud said,

    […] this list added to my repertoire of phrases that help focus on the child, the task, the effort – not my […]

  31. Keeping Gentle Focus « Parenting Gently said,

    […] 10.     Encouraging things to say to kids. […]

  32. Nashwa Meshref said,

    Thank you :)

  33. Claudia said,

    Unconditional love! Great ways to connect before you correct, acknowledge their effort and feelings. I always remind my preschoolers parents.

    Claudia.

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