Ever wonder why we naturally lean towards appearance or gender-related comments when we first meet babies or toddlers? It’s practically instinctual to tell a parent how cute their baby is. And while babies are cute (sorry, we had to say it), our question is why?
After all, we can think of about 100 things we’d rather promote in our children than vanity….We want them to feel smart and strong and happy way before cute, right? RIGHT. That’s why we’re making an effort to move away from appearance-related compliments towards more engaging comments and conversation starters. And honestly, it’s embarrassing how difficult this switch has been. That’s why we’ve come up with a few strategies to cement our (long overdue) new habit:
Ask a question.
Whether you want to learn more about the baby or toddler or just want to ask about the parent’s experience in this new life stage, asking questions will help get you there. Plus, these questions eventually lead to more enriching conversations than dead-end appearance-related comments. Try simple, straight-forward questions like:
“What’s your name?”
“How old are you?”
“What have you been loving?”
“What’s your favorite snack?”
Give positive reinforcement.
Comments that foster creativity or highlight a skill or interest are great for development. Rather than greeting a baby by saying “Aren’t you so cute?!” try pointing out an impressive action or personality trait. For example, if a baby reaches towards you, try saying “You’re so strong!” or “You’re so smart!”
For older kids, we like to opt for comments like, “I love how safely you climbed down from the couch,” or “Wow, you did that all by yourself!” The earlier kids start associating these types of actions with positive reinforcement, the better habits they will create.
Use “I wonder…” statements.
If you’re dealing with an older child that can talk to you or understand what you’re saying, try using “I wonder” statements to pique their curiosity and engage them in fun and educational conversations. Try statements like:
“I wonder why those leaves are yellow.”
“I wonder how that broccoli tastes.”
“I wonder who can walk across the room faster?”
Use more generalized adjectives.
“What a sweetie!”
“You have such a lovely baby.”
“What a great kiddo.”
“Your babe seems so bright.”