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Sometimes you need a reminder to take a break from the daily chaos of family life and let your little ones know just how special and loved they really are. Here are some ways to inject a little fun into every day of the year, and make your children feel treasured always.
1. Spend time alone with each of your children. Go out to lunch, take a leisurely walk, or just hang out together letting them know you value them as individuals.
2. Nurture self-esteem and self-confidence by praising good effort and a job well done, not just results.
3. Celebrate everyday accomplishments. Make a special dinner with your child as the guest of honor to toast losing a tooth, making the soccer team, getting an A on a science paper, and more.
4. Teach children to think positive by being positive. Instead of noting how dirty they are when they come in for dinner, say, "Looks like you had a great time!"
5. Read "just one more book" even if it's late and you're tired. And don't forget to read to older children who already know how to read themselves. It's a great opportunity to snuggle.
6. Get out the photo albums and their baby books and tell your children stories about their beginnings.
7. Remind them of something they've taught you.
8. Tell them how wonderful it is being their parent and how much you like the way they're growing up.
9. Let your children choose their own clothes. It shows you respect their decision-making ability. Besides, everyone will know you didn't dress them. You would never mix plaid and stripes!
10. Get messy with your kids: Make snow angels, put your hands in the finger-paint, and mush up that clay.
11. Get to know their schedules, friends, and teachers so you can ask, "Did you and Sam sit together at lunch today?" or "What did Mr. Rogers sing in music class?" instead of simply, "What did you do today?"
12. Stop washing the dishes and talking on the phone and really listen when they are talking to you.
13. Teach your children to play jacks, use a yo-yo, knit, or do something you loved as a child. Or let your child choose something new you can learn together.
14. Bend the rules. Let your children put on their boots and jump in the puddles you usually tell them to avoid.
15. Eat dinner together even if it's just once a week. Take turns sharing your week's accomplishments.
16. Cut their sandwiches into shapes with cookie cutter hearts and stars.
17. Slip little love notes, jokes, poems, and words of encouragement into your children's lunchboxes, backpacks, or next to their beds (if you leave before they wake up), just to let them know you're thinking about them all day long.
18. Let your children overhear you complimenting them to someone else.
19. Wear the "jewels" your children make for you and display their artwork proudly in a special, visible place.
20. Try not to do all the things your parents did that you vowed never to do to your children.
21. Instead of saying, "You're doing it wrong," when your child makes a mistake, try saying "Why don't you try it this way."
22. Create a secret word, sign, or gesture of affection that only you and your child share.
23. Remember to give your children a lasting gift: roots and wings. If they push for independence, take it as the sign of a job well done.
24. Forget about yesterday. Start each day fresh. It's a new opportunity to have a better relationship with your children and to fall in love with them all over again.
25. Hug them, kiss them, and say, "I love you" every day, no matter what. Kids thrive on it and it's a daily fix we all need no matter what our age!
Bethany Kandel is the mother of two sons and the author of The Expert Parent: Everything You Need to Know From All the Experts in The Know (Pocket Books, 1997).