Part of the passion that started this blog is that my weakness was magnified when I discovered how challenging this parenting road was going to be. Don’t get me wrong. It is full of joys and triumphs. I wouldn’t choose differently. However, it’s been the most humbling, taxing and redefining season so far in my life. I explored this concept a little bit more when I wrote the article, “I Have Everything I Ever Wanted, Why am I so Unhappy.” While sometimes I probably take parenting too seriously, I can tell you that it is not to be taken lightly. As I am raising up the next generation, I have found 8 phrases I want my kids to learn to say. I believe these phrases will help set them up for a lifetime of success.
8 Phrases I Want My Kids to Learn to Say
- “Yes, Mommy” – I want my kids to learn to obey. I know for some, “obey” seems like a four letter word. I’ve heard the term compared to how you speak to a dog. I disagree. My children have been put in my care, and I have more experience to be able to guide them through life. Our home will operate better when we teach obedience. It’s not a dominance power play. It’s a lesson for the real world. No, I don’t want my children to use blind obedience in all circumstance, and we teach them when it’s appropriate to fight back. That said, obedience is a part of life. There are laws, teachers and bosses who will ask this of my children as they walk through life. I encourage you to click on the link above to learn more about how I teach this important phrase and why it’s so important. “Yes, Mommy” has been a game changer in our home.
- “What Can I do to Help?” or “What’s Next, Mom?” – Teaching kids to have a helpful spirit is very important. I remember a family who came over to my house for a meal. The kids, of all ages, asked me at various times, “What can I do to help?” This was obviously a phrase their parents had taught them, and they were living it out. What a blessing it was to have them offer. I want my kids to be a blessing to others and be aware of those around them. Creating in them a helpful spirit is part of it. “What’s next, Mom?” Is a phrase I use when we are in clean-up mode, and it makes all the difference when they use it. Clean up goes so much quicker. Trust me, it takes a lot of teaching and hard work upfront to get them to use these phrases more naturally, but it is worth it.
- “I’m sorry for… Can you forgive me?” – We want to reenact the gospel message in our home. Forgiveness is one of the pillars of the Christian faith. Making things right is key to a successful family. Kids need to learn to say that they are sorry, what they are sorry for and ask for forgiveness. It is humbling and hard, but it is essential for living. Learning the habit and heart of asking for forgiveness will help their future relationships. Relationships between spouses, parents, siblings, friends and co-workers can experience healing when people can discover what they are contributing to the breakdown and seek forgiveness. Modeling “I’m sorry” is key to kids grasping the idea and living it out. I have had to, many times, go to my children or spouse and say these very words.
- “I forgive you.” – The response to “I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?” is “I forgive you.” I work with a marriage ministry called Re-Engage, which began out of Watermark Church in Fort Worth, TX. I love how they establish the meaning of forgiveness. Forgiveness is “a choice to forego your perceived right to get even, leaving any retribution to God. It is releasing that person from the repayment for a debt that is owed.” It is also important to establish what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is NOT minimizing what has been done to me, putting myself in a risky position again so that person can continue to hurt me, instantly granting trust (trust is granted over time), or forgetting what happened. Forgiveness is a choice, and it is often more healing for the person granting it. This family rhythm demonstrates for the kids what we are called to in our relationship with God and other people on this earth, and it is beautiful.
- “No.” – While “no” may not resonate right away because it seems defiant and perhaps you are hearing it from your toddler or teenager all the time, let me reassure you that you want your kids to be able to say, “No!” I have children who don’t lack opinions, so teaching them to say this word was not even necessary. Although I’m often frustrated with their strong will, I’m also grateful for it. I want my kids to say, “No!” in the face of temptations, sin and people who intend to do them harm. We talk about how we have an absolute right to say “No” or “Stop” if anyone touches us in a way that feels wrong. It is not only a right it is essential. Further, kids will come along and want our kids to stray from our teachings and the teachings of God, and we want them strong enough to stand up and say, “Absolutely not.” While I already established the importance of teaching our kids to say “Yes, Mommy,” when our children are asked to do something that goes against what they know to be true, I want them to have a voice for truth. “No” is not a scary word. It is a must!
- “I feel…” – Being able to voice feelings is important in a child’s development and well being. I have a controversial post called, “How to Stop the Whining and Crying in Kids.” Part of the controversy was that I perhaps didn’t establish well enough that I in no way want to stuff my child’s feelings. You can read more about the method, but the message is not to tell kids their feelings aren’t valid or to just push those feelings away. I want my kids to learn to get self control of their reaction so we can most effectively talk about their feelings. I want to help my kids develop a language of feelings. When they were little and would burst into tears, when they got to a point I could talk to them reasonably I would say, “I think you were feeling frustrated.” I gave them a vocabulary word for their feelings, which is essential for kids. I remember talking to my daughter and giving her the word misunderstood. Her demeanor changed when she knew there was a valid description for what she was experiencing in her heart. Teaching and showing empathy helps our children identify feelings in themselves and others and is, according to John Medina author of “Brain Rules for Baby” (affiliate), one of the top two predictors of social competency.
- “I’m going to be laid back about that.” – I want my children to learn when something is a big deal and when we can just be more laid back about things. Kids are super reactive. Little things can set them off. There are things in life to get upset about, but I want to help my kids more clearly establish the majors from the minors. “We’re going to be laid back about that,” is one of the phrases I’ve adopted to try and create more peace in our home.
- “Jesus, I need forgiveness. I want you to be the Lord of my life.” – We have come back to forgiveness. If I have taught my kids to say this phrase and mean it from their heart, I feel like I have done a good job in their lives. I have given them the keys to a life complete. The first part is recognizing their need for a Savior and knowing it is Jesus who can forgive. The second part is asking Him to be the Lord of their life. They then rely on Jis strength, grace, and the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control) that He gives freely to those who ask. Many people see Christianity as a book of rules that we must follow, but what sets Christianity apart is that at the heart of it is admitting that we can never live up to God’s holy nature, so we throw all of our ickiness on Christ’s sacrificial death for our sins. Christians shouldn’t think of themselves as better than others. The heart of this faith is humbling ourselves to realize that we are not and therefore reaching out to a God who is greater than all so that our sins can be washed white as snow. This is the message I want my kids to know. I am truly sorry to all that have not received this very message from the Christians you know.
What would you add to the list? Are there any phrases you want your kids to know that I missed? I’d love to hear about it on my Facebook page or in the comment section here.
Readers Chime In
I asked my readers what they would add to the list, and I got some great responses.
- “Please teach me how to…” Is one I’d add. I want my kids to ask for help when they need it, and be interested in learning how to do new things. – Andie
- “I’m listening!” I want my girls to learn to listen. Listening brings with it so many benefits. They can learn so much just by listening to what other people have to say. Just by listening to someone can also help to build relationships and avoid conflict. They don’t have to agree with the other person, but listening shows respect. – Sandi
- “Thank You.”
- “Mom, I Love You.”
- “Please.” “You’re welcome.” “Thank you.”
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This is a fabulous post, and I so agree with your points about #1. It’s not about blind obedience or teaching our children that anyone’s desires or rules should overrule them, but there needs to be an understanding that not everything is negotiable or up for debate. As a psychologist, the children I’ve met whose parents are anti-obey are either really laid back kids, or ones that are constantly putting themselves in danger/the parents are frazzled by parenting. I think it’s the word “obey” that causes the reactions, “respect my rules” is possibly gentler but the exact same sentimnet.
Thank so much for commenting, Jennifer. It’s great to hear feedback from a psychologist that has across the board experience with a lot of exposure to different kinds of parenting. “Respect my rules” is a great way to state it. I really appreciate your thoughts here.
I would add, “. PLEASE, THANK YOU, & YOU’RE WELCOME ….” – great list you have put together!
Great additions. Thanks so much!