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John Fagan

"I love you."

I'll tell you what, I wish to GOD that I had heard this more from my Dad growing up (…and said this to him as well…). It’s CRAZY to think that I didn’t tell my dad “I love you.” regularly until I was in my 40’s! It just wasn’t said. I knew he did love me, but just never voiced it. It was a very rare occasion that we said these words to each other.

My mom, on the other hand, didn’t have a problem telling me, and my two brothers, that she loved us.

When we had our first child, I made a vow to myself, that my children would never question if I loved them or not. Not only would I show them that I loved them, I would tell them that I loved them. So that when they went to bed every night they would KNOW their Dad loved them.


So, the other day I got my first “I HATE YOU!” from my 6 year old daughter.

It’s funny. I knew it was coming. She had said it to my wife before. She was all full of sass. She was ready to explode. (by the way, this all stems from being asked to “clean up” the toys at a neighbors house).

When she said it, I actually laughed. My mind went through 23 different thoughts in a split second and all I could think to say was, “Well, that’s too bad because I love you.” As she stomped off to her room I said it again, and just before slamming her door she responded “I LOVE YOU TOO!” - and SLAM!

This got me thinking.

What else do our kids NEED to HEAR from us?

1) Every kid needs a “Atta-Boy!”

(or substitute “Atta-girl”) Kids need to hear “good job” from their parents. But, it’s one thing to say good job when your kids get a good grade, or win a race, or land a job. It’s another to catch the little things and praise them for that. So, whether it is your son picking up a piece of trash and throwing it away. Or, your daughter giving her brother her last chocolate chip cookie. SEE the little things and give them praise.

2) “it’s okay to be sad.”

So often we try and make our kids happy. We tell them, “Don’t cry. It’s okay.” Or, “I know you want to watch TV, but I said no. Deal with it.” We have to let our kids know that it is OKAY to be sad. It is OKAY to be mad. To teach our kids that they need to be happy all the time is an impossibility. Are YOU happy all the time? Do you get grumpy? The answer is a resounding YES. Let them know it’s okay to feel ALL emotions….BUT….how do you DEAL with those emotions, that is the question.

3) “You can always talk to me…about anything.”

Okay…talk about an important one. This is something we need to say to our kids…and often. Here’s the thing; if our kids won’t talk to us, who are they going to talk to? The answer is most likely their friends. Do you really want Sally Jenkins giving your daughter “boy advice?” Or little Tommy Fillion giving your son advice on the best drugs to take to stay awake? The answer is an emphatic NO! We HAVE TO have an open line of communication with our kids. So, suck it up. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Establish the relationship with your children that they can talk to you about anything.

4) “It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to make mistakes.”

Holy Cow! Today, more than ever before, kids feel the absolutely overwhelming need to be right and to succeed. We, Moms and Dads, have to get them to understand that it is impossible to ALWAYS be right and to ALWAYS succeed. Even Michael Phelps lost once in a while. Sometimes failure is NEEDED! If things always go the way you want, it is only a matter of time before they don’t. Then what? How do you react? Exercise the “Mistake Muscle".” Exercise the “Failure Muscle.” This will only help them grow!

5) “I LOVE YOU.”

Kids gotta hear it. They gotta hear it often. If ever in doubt…say it. Say it out loud. Say it with feeling. Mean it. Feel it.