By Small Talk Speech Pathology

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Simple ways to make your child feel special

Courtesy of  The baby center

by Rachel Sarah 

Last updated: September 2011
With our busy lives full of errands, work, appointments, and social events, it can sometimes feel like we need to make grand gestures to let our kids know they're loved and special.

But what makes your children feel special might surprise you. You don't need to spend $10,000 on a birthday party or a deluxe trip to Disneyland. You don't need to buy a Barbie Mustang or a tree house or let them have ice cream every night.

In fact, making your child feel special is very simple, according to Leigh Leverrier, a family life coach in the Washington, D.C., area, who says, "Children feel special when they are respected, noticed, listened to, and heard."

This can be as straightforward as hearing "what your child says and mirroring back what you hear to acknowledge his or her thoughts," Leverrier adds.

Doris Jeanette, a licensed psychologist in Philadelphia, says: "It's not the activities, but the energy behind the activities that makes a child feel loved."
In other words, making your child feel special is as simple as paying attention. Cuddling, play wrestling, and bragging about your kid works, too.

Create little morning moments

"The morning sets the tone," says Bob Lancer, author of Parenting With Love, Without Anger or Stress. "If there's strife, rushing, or power struggles in the morning, you have a child who feels less important than other elements of the parent's agenda."

Instead of giving in to morning impatience, Vanessa Pizzinato of Ontario, Canada, takes a few minutes with her 5-year-old every morning to gently walk her fingers over his legs and feet to wake him up. If that doesn't work, then she takes his feet, puts one up to her ear and the other in front of her mouth, and talks to his tummy and head "to find out when they think he will wake up."

Cara Mirabella, who runs TheHouseholdHelper, spends a little quality time each morning with her 2-year-old by having coffee together. (His "coffee" is milk.) "We watch Sesame Street, the two of us cuddling on the couch, enjoying our coffee," she says.

After taking five minutes for yourself "to enjoy the quiet of the morning before the stampede begins," says Patty Wipfler, founder of Hand in Hand Parenting, spend ten minutes with your child before anybody has to rush anywhere.

"First thing in the morning can be a wonderfully effective time to connect with children, especially when they're going to school and won't get to see you all day," she says.

Snuggle and cuddle

Karen Maezen Miller, author of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhoodsays that physical touch is essential to making your child feel connected and special. 
"Take every opportunity to impart security and steadfast love with the pure joy of your physical touch: a hug, a tickle, a single finger to hold onto. Get close," she says.

"Set the alarm 15 minutes early," suggests Wipfler. "Turn the snooze alarm into the snuggle alarm."
For Kelly Stettner, of Vermont, special time with her daughter means cuddling up on the couch for a movie, during which "I gently stroke the sides of her neck. She's 9 now, and it's just a little ritual we have that makes her feel completely connected and so special."

As a single parent with no ex in the picture, this writer understands what it means to go-go-go. I know how challenging it can be to slow down, between packing school lunches and washing the dinner dishes. Here's the truth: My child still sleeps with me sometimes. But this is the only time during the day when I stop running. This is when I put my arms around my daughter. This is our snuggle time. It's so worth it.

Make up special stories

Children love being the center of our attention. If your child has the chance for just a moment to be the hero in her own story, it will likely become her favorite bedtime story.

Shara Lawrence-Weiss, mother of two in Arizona and founder of Personal Child Stories, creates stories about her children — with photos to boot. "When others ask my kids about their books, they beam from ear to ear. My son says, 'My mom made this for me!' "

Bonnie Russell, a California mother of two children in their 20s, says that she wrote down "the cute things they did or said when they were little, figuring I'd need to remember why I loved them when they became teenagers.

"It turned out that whenever they asked me to read to them, it wasn't anything from a commercial author on a bestseller list. They always wanted me to read them 'their' books. It made them feel special."

Chris Shaw of North Carolina gets very creative with her sons. Recently, on a rainy day, they made a movie. "Not a home movie — a real movie — with a script, props, and costumes. We let my 7-year-old write the script, help make costumes, and create props."You can see her family's movie here.

Ask for help

It's all too easy to treat a child like a child and do everything for him. But including him in your tasks can instantly make him feel important and special.

Life coach Leverrier says, for instance, let your child choose what's for dinner now and then. "Take him to the grocery store to pick the food and let him help prepare the meal."

Amy Oztan of New York, who blogs at SelfishMom, says her two kids "always complain that I'm on the computer all day. So when they're feeling ignored, I let them pick out pictures and videos and help me post them to our family's website, for all of the grandparents, aunts, and uncles to see."

Writer Hilary Miller of Littleton, Colorado, says even though her son Nicholas isn't yet 3 years old, "he loves helping me set the table or helping Dad flip burgers. And he mows the lawn with Dad — with his little plastic mower."

Break the rules

Kids love to break rules. So imagine how fun it would be just to have waffles for dinner — or stay up past bedtime and watch a movie with Mommy or Daddy.

Lori Quaranta of Connecticut made a deal with her daughter when she was in first grade that if she "kept up at school, we would enjoy a 'skip work and school day' together."

So, twice every school year, they "skipped school" to have a mother-daughter day — "which usually included some type of shopping. We did this until she graduated high school. My daughter is 22 years old now."

Luann Udell, mother of two in New Hampshire, remembers one night she and her kids were all "in a bad mood, being ornery, picking fights." Even her husband was crabby. Instead of cracking down and sending everyone to bed, she said, "Let's go get ice cream!"

"We drove to a local restaurant, and I told everyone to order any kind of ice cream they wanted — no holds barred. You could feel the bad mood lift and dissipate."

And this writer followed suit and let her child have a brownie this morning. Let's just say there were no protests that morning in our home!

Have fun at bedtime

Bedtime is a perfect time to make your child feel special. Daniel Hallac, cofounder ofKidmondo, says that he and his wife started a bedtime routine six years ago with their son called "relax."

After teeth brushing and a story, it's time for "the relax," which "is really just hanging out in his bed with the lights out," says Hallac. "We just talk about anything he wants to talk about. Like many parents, we are very busy and pulled in a million directions. But during 'relax' time, we focus 100 percent on him."

When their son was younger and guests were over, he insisted the guests do "the relax," too.

Dominek Black, mother of two sons in Brooklyn, says that her "2-year-old loves to get in the tub with me." So, before bed, Mom relaxes while her son draws with crayons on the tiles. (Let's not talk about cleanup the next morning!)

Amanda Johnson of Oklahoma rocks her 3-year-old daughter to bed every night — but not like you'd think. Every night, she and her husband carry their daughter "by her arms and legs, swinging her into bed. Her favorite part is when we swing her back and forth, counting to three and then flopping her into bed while we all scream 'Banana Pants.'"

Banana Pants? "We're not quite sure where that term came from," admits Johnson. "But she laughs hysterically every time."

Get silly

Being silly is something kids understand well — and appreciate wholeheartedly in others. There's no better way to get a kid's attention than by being wacky — and it can make them feel like you're in their world with them, instead of up in your adult world.

Mom Gina Luttrell gets goofy when she sings to her 3-year-old every night: "Instead of reciting the exact words to "You Are My Sunshine,' we sing 'You are my sunshine cupcake head.' Or, instead of 'You'll never know dear,' we sing 'You'll never YES dear.' "

Or you can make bath time a blast. Author and speaker Edna Ellison of South Carolina puts her kids in the bath with a dab of shampoo. Then she announces that there's going to be a hairdo contest. "At the end of a bath, we celebrate the crazy hairdos!"

And, of course, from a kid's point of view you can never have too many special occasions — as long as the fuss is all about him! Andrea Tompkins of Ontario, Canada, says she celebrates her kids' half-birthdays with a half-cake. "There are no presents or balloons. We just sing half of the "Happy Birthday" song and eat our half-cake."

Use your words

Parenting experts agree that while it might feel most natural to say "I love you" or "I'm proud of you," focusing on the you instead of the I can make your child feel special.

"If you want to raise your children's self-esteem, you don't want them to be overly concerned about your pride," explains parenting expert Marilyn Suttle in Michigan. "Try focusing on their own pride by saying something like, 'You must feel so proud of yourself!' "

Linda Miles in Florida, author of All Aboard the Brain Train, Teaching Your Child to Live a Purpose-Filled Path, echoes this advice. "Repeat positive thoughts and ideas like 'You can do it and I will help' or 'It's okay to take your time.' "

Pediatric nurse and mother of three, Jennifer Walker — a founder of Moms On Call — says that another fun way to acknowledge your children is to let them "hear us praise their good behavior in front of the people they love and admire."

Walker explains that you might mention their achievements at the dinner table: "I told Jerry he couldn't have some ice cream for breakfast and he didn't throw a tantrum. He was sad for a moment and then he moved on and went to play with his toys."

Or, you might even let your child eavesdrop on your bragging, like Silvana Clark, author of301 Bright Ideas for Busy Kids. She calls her mom on the phone when her daughter is in earshot. "Then I let her 'overhear' me talking on the phone to Grandma about something positive she did."

And just pay attention to the little things

No matter what, parenting experts agree that sometimes it's the smallest, simplest things that make our children feel so good.

Anne Wear of North Carolina, for instance, says that she makes her three kids feel special by giving them unique nicknames: "Midge," "Bean," and "Mr. Boo."

"I've told them this is a special name that I call them to let them know how great they are," says Wear.

Stress and wellness specialist Beverly Beuermann-King of Work Smart Live Smart leaves notes for her sons when she's traveling for work. While she's gone, her husband "puts these notes in their lunch boxes. I also stick notes to their pillows that say 'Sweet dreams.' "

For author and essayist Kaui Hemmings of Hawaii, showing her daughter that she's special means volunteering in her preschool class. "It makes her really happy when I go on field trips with her preschool. I'm not sure whether she feels special because I'm there, or if she's proud to show me her world and her rules away from home."

And although she never imagined herself as a mother who wrestles, Michelle Garrett of Ohio is just that. "I will drop everything to wrestle with him," she says about her 6-year-old son.

For Richie Escovedo, father of two, a little dancing does the trick. "During Dancing With the Stars, my daughter dressed up in one of her Disney princess costumes and danced. It melted my heart to hear her say, 'Dance with me, Daddy!' There is nothing better."

And even just using the word "special" can make your child feel special.

Mom of three Carol Schiller in Washington state says that "the word 'special' is very powerful."
"Ever since they were very little, I have asked them: 'Who is my special boy (or girl)?' " says Schiller. "Of course they all know the answer is 'Me!' Now, whenever we are together I can ask 'Who is my special?' to the group and they all chime in together, 'ME!!' — even my 2-year-old."
Here are some simple, inexpensive (or free!), and ultimately very meaningful ways to make your child feel special.


  1. Thank you for putting together such a great compilation of ideas! Making our kids feel special is really important in our household (tickle time and family dance time have become traditions), but I'm happy to have some new surprises to sneak in here and there!

  2. This is very helpful. I am always surprised at how "only-child" directed so much parenting articles are, however. It's much more difficult to make one child feel special when you have three or four. Thanks for the time you spent on this, and I will try to apply some of these techniques to each of my children. I'll keep looking for other articles, too, that apply to parents of more than one.

  3. You are welcome Stephanie & Elizabeth. We are thankful for wonderful parenting sites such as the that publish such useful information. It can be tricky to make little day to day moments special for kids and we embrace any ideas that can make family time more joyous!

  4. Great ideas; thank you for taking the time to put them out there for all of us.

    I don't think that most of these ideas are exclusive to parents of one child. I have three young girls - 3, 5, and 7 years old - and it is definitely more challenging than it was when I had one. For them, the one-on-one time is what they need most, but I have discovered that it doesn't have to be long or fancy. I try to read the toddler a book in the morning before I start school work with the others. If I am online, I let her sit in my lap, and occasionally whisper something silly or loving in her ear. Sometimes I let my oldest skip afternoon quiet time so we can hang out together. Sometimes her quiet time is just sitting on my bed with me while we both read our own books and hold hands. My second is the most challenging for me, but she loves it when I am silly. This morning I danced while I cooked their eggs, and they all thought it was hilarious. (Actually, I probably was pretty funny looking.) We make up silly songs with ridiculous lyrics about the salami I saw on sale in the grocery store. If they ask me to sing to them when we are out in public, I swallow my pride and we sing away.

    I have found that the key with my kids is to look for small moments. With a husband who works long hours and many weekends, individual date nights can only happen once every couple months. If I waited for a time when we could do something big and special, it would not be enough! For our family, the key is squeezing in as many of those little moments in as we can amidst the laundry, grocery shopping, school work, house cleaning, dinner cooking, baths and bedtimes!