Research has shown that tossing out a generic phrase like “Good girl” or “Way to go” every time your child masters a skill makes her dependent on your affirmation rather than her own motivation, says Parents advisor Jenn Berman, Psy.D., author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids. Save the kudos for when they’re truly warranted, and be as specific as you can. Instead of “Super game,” say, “That was a nice assist. I like how you looked for your teammate.”
When your child scrapes his knee and bursts into tears, your instinct may be to reassure him that he’s not badly hurt. But telling him he’s fine may only make him feel worse. “Your kid is crying because he’s not okay,” says Dr. Berman. Your job is to help him understand and deal with his emotions, not discount them. Try giving him a hug and acknowledging what he’s feeling by saying something like, “That was a scary fall.” Then ask whether he’d like a bandage or a kiss (or both).
Your child dawdles over her breakfast, insists on tying her own sneakers (even though she hasn’t quite mastered the technique yet), and is on pace to be late for school – again. But pushing her to get a move on creates additional stress, says Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., coauthor of Baby Minds. Soften your tone slightly by saying, “Let’s hurry,” which sends the message that the two of you are on the same team. You can also turn the act of getting ready into a game: “Why don’t we race to see who can get her pants on first?”