Happy Talk

Happy talk!

Let’s face it: parenting is STRESSFUL! We feel such pressure to nurture and encourage brilliant, successful, kind, loving children. We read articles, books, and blogs about how to honor their unique personality, support their interests and talents, and how push them (just a little) academically and socially to be their best. Family, friends, and neighbors all weigh in and give their 2c about what we should be doing and shouldn’t be doing. Yikes!! Trying to wade through all this ‘helpful’ information and advice is daunting. Yet people complain that children are less well-behaved, more demanding, self-entitled, and outspoken as never before. What’s a mother (or father) to do?

I’m here to suggest: Happy talk. That’s right, happy talk. I mean, saying nice things and keeping track. The ratio is 10-1: ten positive, encouraging, uplifting, self-esteem-building comments to one more critical, correcting one. Think about starting your child’s day with, “I love seeing your eyes when you wake up.” Instead of the usual, “Get up!” Spending consistent, invested time in telling your children what is positive and true about them – everyday – is a gift that will carry them long into adulthood.

Consider a YouTube video I recently enjoyed. It was of a special education teacher, working with elementary school children. He spent the first hour of every school day telling each of his students what he appreciated about them. Five minutes of positive touching comments, praise, and encouragement, faceto-face and in front of their peers. You can imagine the positive outcomes from the students, their academic improvement, and their enthusiasm to come to school every day. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UZ_lWr028o)

Now imagine if the person who loves them most – their parent – started their day with that kind of encouraging and loving message. The response cannot even be prescribed.

So here is the trick: Happy Talk consists of spending 5 minutes each morning giving your child 10 truths (or more) about their magnificent self. “I am so lucky to have you in my family. You are kind and loving. You are funny and easy to be with. I love how you sing out loud and dance to your own music. You come up with the funniest lines and just make me chuckle, not just when you say it, but whenever I remember…” You get the idea.

Like the song from South Pacific (the broadway musical, remember?) “Happy talk keep talkin’ happy talk…talk about things you like [about me]Forget all that successful-child (i.e. how to have a successful child) advice from friends, neighbors, and family members. You won’t need it if you just follow this one simple suggestion: Happy Talk-5 minutes. Your child will be flying high, top of their game, feeling confident, well behaved, and most of all, competent, capable, and courageous.


Dr. Susan M. Carter is a clinical child and family psychologist and Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor in private practice in Kalamazoo.