As part of my training to become a Montessori teacher, there was a big emphasis on building relationships with the children. When a child walked into the classroom, we would get down on their level, shake their hand and make eye contact (if they were open to this) and say something like, "I'm so happy you're here today." This is because Montessori focuses on the whole child, including their physical and emotional well being, and also because it is much easier for a child to succeed academically if they feel comfortable and connected in the classroom.
So amidst the busyness of life, how can we make sure we're showing our kids enough affection? How can we make sure they feel our love when we're racing around being mamas?
Try these phrases and adjust them to fit your own style and family so your precious little one doesn't get lost in the shuffle:
1. "I'm happy to see you."When I became a mom, I said this every morning in the classroom and made it a part of my morning greeting to my children each day. It can be hard not to start the day on a grumpy note when young children wake up (SO) early, but it's important to let them know that we're happy to be here with them, taking care of them, each and every day.
2. "Let's snuggle."Maybe you set the alarm just five minutes earlier every day and build in a little snuggle time when you wake your child up for school. Or maybe that sounds horrible and you opt for a Saturday morning weekly family snuggle party instead. Whatever works best for your family, find a way to include regular opportunities to relax and snuggle together even as your child gets older. Some children need more physical affection than others, so make sure to follow your child's lead.
3. "I love that you are so generous."One part of my Montessori training that really stuck with me is acknowledging "qualities of greatness." This is a strategy that can be particularly effective with a child who seeks negative attention. Catch them when they are doing something right, no matter how small it is, and make a big deal about it. Does your child always take toys from their younger sibling, but then you catch them in the act of sharing a favorite book? Let them know that you see it. Say something like "I love seeing you be so generous with your sister! You are a really giving person." This lets our children know that we see them as good people, and it also helps shape their perception of themselves. You can extrapolate a quality of greatness from almost anything. Your child put their own shoes on? "I love that you're so independent!" They picked up their Legos without you asking? "You sure are conscientious!" Find a way to give them a meaningful compliment and it will stick with them.
4. "Do you want to know one of my favorite things about you?"Especially if you have more than one child, it's important to let them know that you love them for who they are, uniquely. The more specific the compliment you offer them, the more it will mean to them. "You're a good boy" doesn't really mean much but "I love that you take good care of your things" is specific enough to matter.
5. "Come sit with me."Sometimes affection looks like a big bear hug and kind words and sometimes it's simply a quiet moment together. Especially for young children, it's not always clear what their love language is, but quality time together is always important to our children. It's easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself and think "quality time" has to be a special one on one date to an unforgettable place, but it can be as simple as a few cozy minutes together on the couch.
6. "Is there anything you want to chat about?"I often ask my 3-year-old this at bedtime (well really after bedtime, when he's called me back into his room for "one last song"). He usually doesn't come up with anything in particular at this point, but it's important to me that he knows I'm there to listen. I imagine that one day he'll surprise me with an answer that gives me a little window into his heart, but even if he doesn't, what matters is that he knows he can talk to me and that I always have time for him.
7. "You give the best hugs."One day when I was in my Montessori classroom, a little 3-year-old girl walked up to me and randomly gave me a hug. As she walked away I heard her to say to herself, "I give the best hugs," and it brought the biggest smile to my face. I am sure her parents tell her this all the time. There is a big difference between "Do you need a hug?" (which is also a great thing to say) and "You give the best hugs!"
Let your child know that you're hugging them not just because they want to be close to you, but because you want to be close to them, and value and treasure their affection.