Merritt: Daily does of positive comments can help us all, particularly kids

Now that students are back to their books and parents are back to carpooling and hectic schedules, I'm reminded of a list I posted on my refrigerator about a month ago.

It's entitled, "66 Positive Things to Say to Your Child." I had clipped it from the August/September issue of The Shepherd's Staff News, a newsletter circulated by The Shepherd's Staff, a nonprofit organization that serves the needy in Carroll County.


Though the list was intended for parents, I believe the positive suggestions can be communicated by all of us — grandparents, teachers, neighbors and any adult who comes into contact with youngsters.

The first time I saw the 66 sentences, I skimmed them quickly to do a report card check of some of the things, or similar ones, I remember having said to my children. They included," I love you," "You make me proud," "You are a good boy/girl," "You look great," and "You are very good at that."

Those are the easy, still very important, comments that I imagine are said by most parents on many occasions. But as life continues its hectic pace and technology has opened the door to instantaneous information and responses, I'm wondering if it's a rare occasion when we say some of the following to a child whose self-image could be bolstered up by our interest:

"I can't wait to hear about it," "I love the way you tell stories," "I learn new things from you every day," and "I'm listening," are comments that can nurture conversation instead of our silent, distracted reliance on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

When I was a mother of two teenagers — way before smartphones — my communication with them was often laced with exasperated directives such as, "Clean your room," "Do your homework," and "Did you take out the trash?"

Sometimes those comments became ignored rhetoric as my frustration increased. I wonder had I said, "I understand you," or "We can try your way," or "That's a very fair point," the results at that time may have been different. (Note: Despite my mistakes, they grew up to be responsible adults and, ultimately, parents faced with the same issues.)

I think about our two grandsons — one, 25 years of age; the other, 16 — and my praises toward them know no boundaries. I have often said similar statements such as:

"You are important," You are loved," "You are valuable," "Being around you is fun," and "What you did was awesome," comments which are so easy to express to a grandchild. Grandparents — unbounded by work restraints — have-the-time to take-the-time for the ones we love.

As my teenage grandson matures, I'm interested in listening to what he has to say about the world around him and though I may not always share his opinion, I'm delighted that he has one. That's when comments such as, "Your words are meaningful," and "Your opinion matters," can let him know that I'm not dismissing his views.

There are other children — unrelated to us — who could benefit from a sincere praise or two.

Many years ago, as a Sunday School teacher, I had a student who seemed a little unruly and a bit belligerent — a contrast from his older brother, a model pupil who had also been in my class. One morning as I was hurriedly setting up the lesson plan before the children's arrival, I needed help and asked the younger brother — who had always arrived early — to help me. He plunged into the task, doing a great job. From then on, I relied on his assistance which he was very happy to give. I consistently told him, "You did a good job," "You did that so well," "You are helpful," with no false flattery — something kids can usually spot in a nanosecond — and he displayed no more negative behavior.

As I return to volunteering at an elementary school, I'll keep my list of positive things to say. Like multiple vitamins, I figure a daily dose to any child might be enough for him or her to start believing, "You don't have to be perfect to be great."

Dolly Merritt writes from Westminster. She can be contacted via email at