Has your kid’s lackluster response to your well wishes at drop-off started to give you the impression that you need to take a new tack? If so, you’re probably onto something. Here’s the deal: While there’s nothing inherently harmful about telling your kid you hope they have a great day—and chances are you actually mean it—phrases like this that we play on repeat can start to feel, well, meaningless.
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Bethany Cook, “when it comes to creating genuine feelings of connection with others (especially children), repetitive and trite phrases—the kind spoken out of habit—may actually do more harm than good, because these trite responses can make people feel invalidated.” In other words, if the end goal is to truly connect with your kid, the best thing you can do is to take yourself off autopilot and opt for more thoughtful speech instead.
“Kids can feel their parent’s autopilot energy,” Cook tells us, “And a deep parent-child connection requires knowing what emotional or mental things are happening in your kid’s life or checking in with them to find out.”
Old habits die hard, though, which is why we asked the expert for some advice on how parents can best go about making the change. Read on for her three-part plan, plus some new and improved language to add to the rotation.