Language learning experts suggest that there are power phrases that open up the possibility for learning a foreign language and culture. Parenting is a language in that it is communication between parents and their children. Certain words and phrases function as power phrases for parents. They build a door to a deeper understanding between parents and children. After 22 years of being a parent, I finally understand the power of words.
“I love you.” These words are the most important ones to speak to children. They are especially powerful when the child least expects to hear them. Such as situation arises when a child has a made a serious mistake of some kind. Children often assume that they are in trouble even for honest mistakes. Saying “I love you” during those moments assures them that a parent’s love is not conditioned on them being able to perform. Even when the child has done something that requires discipline, “I love you” is a powerful phrase of reassurance.
“What are you doing?” This is a catch phrase for several others such as “what are you thinking,” “what are you reading,” “what are you drawing,” and others. The power of this phrase is that it demonstrates interest. It says to the child that the parent wants to know what is happening in their world. The typical teenager’s response to the these questions is, “Nothing.” However, if they heard these questions from early on in life with genuine interest expressed in their answers, they are more likely to give real answers in later years.
“I’m sorry.” Parents make mistakes just like children do. Sometimes they behave in ways that are inconsistent with the values that they are trying to instill in their children. Sometimes they verbally snap at a child or spouse. Sometimes they make honest mistakes. Too often some parents make the further and worse mistake of making excuses, pretending that what happened did not happen, and ignoring the hurt they may have caused their child. It may seem painful to say, “I’m sorry”; however, it is vital. By saying, “I’m sorry”, the parent admits the mistake, demonstrates the action was wrong, and accepts responsibility for it. Those results are the very ones that parents want their children to seek when they do wrong.
These phrases are not just powerful in parent-child relationships. They are powerful in other relationships as well. They should be spoken more often.