My son came in the back door from school and went straight upstairs. His shoes pounded the hardwood steps and then, his door slammed. I followed him and yelled from the bottom of the stairs, “Son, are you OK?” He cracked the door and yelled back, “YES.” I was in the middle of cooking dinner and had to get the meat off the grill, so I let it go. But at dinner, he was visibly upset and very quiet.
I tried to get him to talk, but he wasn’t having it. It wasn’t until after the dishes were in the sink that I realized I missed a chance to encourage my son. I blew an opportunity to help him through what he was facing. Finally, at bedtime, I was able to have good chats with him about what had happened that day. Sometimes, we step up in the moment and sometimes we drop that ball. But there are lots of ways we can share encouraging words for children after they’ve had a hard day. Here are 5 of them.
1. Turn toward them.
If you are picking up on the fact that your kids have had a hard day, physically turning toward them communicates that they have your ears and your support. Too often, dads miss this opportunity to listen and encourage our children because we are scrolling on our phones or flipping through channels. In the midst of a hard day, if your kids know they have a dad who will move in their direction no matter what, they will know that whatever they faced that day, home is a safe place.
2. Don’t try and fix.
Sometimes we have immediate solutions the second our kids tell us what’s going on. I know I have failed by immediately trying to fix the problem when all my daughter wants is to be heard. Don’t try and fix it. Instead, help your kids process and coach them to come up with solutions on their own. Sometimes, all they need is encouragement instead of being told what to do.
3. Ask pointed questions.
Go right after the heart of the situation. Their behaviors and attitude after a bad day are just symptoms of something else going on. Don’t ask, “What’s wrong?” Instead, ask “Did something happen with your friends?” or “Did you bomb the math test?” Asking pointed questions lets them vent and helps you find the source of the situation quickly.
4. Remind them of who they are.
Once, my son failed a test, and was worried I would be mad at him when he got home. I wasn’t happy, but at that moment, I saw an opportunity to remind him of who he is. I brought up the time he learned to ride a bike. He was so determined; he would fall and then get right back up. The sentence “Cooleys get back up” became part of our family DNA. Instead of hammering him for failing the test, I simply asked, “What do we do when we fail?” He responded with, “We get back up.” He needed to be reminded of who he is and what he has done in order to have the confidence to move forward.In parenting, there is never a one-and-done conversation.
5. Remember details for later follow-up.
In parenting, there is never a one-and-done conversation. But dads are portrayed in movies and TV as forgetful, bumbling idiots who always forget dates and details. Remembering details for later follow-up will help continue the conversation so your kids know Dad has their back. If you have to, put a reminder in your phone for a few days later so you don’t forget to follow up.
Sound off: What are some other encouraging words for children after a hard day?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you need most when you’ve had a hard day?”