how to show your kids you love them

3 Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ Without Saying ‘I Love You’

Do you remember the first time you were impressed by your kid? One of the earliest times I can remember is when my oldest son was four years old. I was lobbing him Wiffle balls to hit in our back yard. As his hand-eye coordination was improving, he was making some solid contact with the ball. What happened about 30 minutes later impressed me tremendously: He hit one over the fence—an eight-foot fence—from about 15 yards away.

We ran around to the other side of the fence to retrieve the ball and I took a photo of him standing next to the ball to commemorate the moment. It was about more than just the love I had for my son—it was a time of inspiration and excitement. He felt so cool. In the picture I took, he had so much attitude and confidence, like he was saying he was just getting started. While it’s important to say “I love you” to our kids, there are a few other statements kids need to hear from us. Here’s how to show your kids you love them without using the words “I love you.”

1. “I admire you for ____________ because…”

My seven-year-old has been inspired by his older brothers and their superior rollerblading skills. While it has taken my seven-year-old a lot of time to improve at rollerblading, not to mention a few bumps and bruises, he’s getting every bit as good on skates as his older siblings. I admire his persistence. If our kids are struggling with hardship or just working really hard, expressing that you admire their perseverance will build their confidence and leave them feeling loved.

2. “I’m inspired by your ____________ because…”

Expressing to your kids that you are inspired by them illustrates a cause-and-effect component for them, that their actions have a ripple effect on others. This year, my oldest son started swimming. He’s enjoyed the challenge, pushing himself to learn each stroke and be the best he can be. While I’m proud of his pursuit, what I really want to say is, “I’m inspired by your commitment to swimming because it’s pushing me to take better care of my body.” Saying it will affirm that what he is doing isn’t just generally good, but it pushes me to want to be better, too. It’s one thing for a father to inspire a child; it’s a whole other thing for a child to be the catalyst to inspire his or her dad.

3. “I’m proud of you for ____________ …”

If you want to tell your kids you love them, take time to elevate them by telling them why you’re proud.

Whenever athletes win awards, they often honor their parents and thank them for their love, support, and sacrifice over the years. Imagine if we flipped it and honored our kids in that way. When our kids do something to support the family, it’s important to confirm their selflessness: “I’m proud of you for your willingness to help cook dinner for the family because you know it’s been a hard day for your mom and me, and we didn’t even ask you to do it.” Your kid will be rewarded for taking ownership of a task he or she has seen performed many times before (by you!) and receiving positive feedback will reinforce a desire to do it again because the contribution meant something. If you want to tell your kids you love them, take a few moments to elevate them by telling them why you’re proud.

At our All Pro Dad chapter meetings, dads are given time at each meeting to share why they are proud of their kids. Check to see if there is an All Pro Dad chapter in your area or consider starting one.

Sound off: What are some other ways to tell our kids we love them without saying, “I love you”?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the best compliment you have ever received?”