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by Shawni

How to Make Kids Feel Love

Although it is true I have the worst memory known to man, I do remember vividly a few varied things from growing up. How my Dad had us lug big rocks up to our cabin at Bear Lake as the only way to make some money in the summers, and how my second grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Whaley and I thought that was the best name in the whole wide world. I remember little things like how sometimes when we lived in England my Mom would play the piano as we’d fall asleep at night (and I remember how wonderful it felt to hear it) and I remember vividly how amazing I thought I was at the “bars” at recess in third grade. I could do the “dead-mans-fall” over and over and over again like nobody’s business.

One of those things I remember was the way my Dad would sometimes tuck us up onto his lap as kids and talk to us about what we were good at. He’d ask us what we thought our talents were and each time we suggested something he’d wholeheartedly agree, and write the first letter of each talent we named on one of our fingertips. For example, if I told him I thought I was pretty ok at taking care of babies, he’d write a big “B” on one finger for “babies,” then an “F” on the next finger for how I could do flips on the trampoline. He’d also add in what he thought we were good at when we got stumped.

It made me happy.

It made me feel capable.

It made me feel secure.

Because really, if my Dad thought I was good at it, then it must be true.

Fast forward to now. Grace and I are reading a book right now (The Report Card) that tells about this fascinating study. The study took a group of kids and tested them on their academic abilities. After the test, the administrators let some of the kids and their teachers know that they were “gifted.” The teachers were told to expect a lot from these particular kids and the kids felt like they were important.

Well, the administrators were right. Those kids excelled dramatically in school. But the interesting thing was that in the end, the people running the study let everyone know that these kids who they had labeled as “gifted” hadn’t tested that way after all. Their names were picked out of a hat of all things.

The difference was that those kids felt exceptional. Someone told them they could succeed. They believed it. Their teachers believed it. So it became true.

I think that’s how life is. If we believe in ourselves, we can make things happen.

And in a way, I think that’s what my Dad was doing when we were young. Writing those talents on our fingertips let us know he believed in us. And we believed him.

Sure, I never became an Olympic gymnast because he wrote that “F” on my finger for my wonderful flips. But I believed I had talents. And I’m thankful for the confidence both my parents had in me even though I was the shyest kid in history.

The other day I got out my ballpoint pen and scooped Claire up on my lap to talk to her about her talents.

She beamed. She looked just like I remember feeling after getting my fingers all marked up years and years ago.

Delight poured out of her for the next hour.

And before long she had her sisters gathered around on the couch and was telling them about their talents. They were mesmerized. (And of course I had to grab the closest camera I could get my hands on, which happened to be my little blurry one, but you get the picture.)And so, dear children, don’t ever underestimate your potential. That’s why we “do hard things” around here. That’s how we grow.

And thank you, dear Dad, for believing in us.

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Kristy April 8, 2010 - 1:37 pm

i love this post. i plan to share it with my hubby.
thanks :O)

jeana April 8, 2010 - 1:44 pm

this is really the neatest and one of the simplest things we can do for our kiddos, i love it! thanks for sharing.

angie b April 8, 2010 - 2:19 pm

SHawni, How is it that I love ya so dang much?
Thank you for this….Like Jeana said this is one of the neatest and simplest things we can do!!
Thanks YOU!

Susan April 8, 2010 - 2:46 pm

Amen to that sister! I'm so doing this with my kiddos now, but especially my 14 year old son who is going through a tough time in school. I don't think he's too old for this do you? Anyway, your parents sound like good people to me.
I love when people share wonderful ideas like this. Thank you and thank you to your dad.

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:32 am

Never too old!

Carin April 8, 2010 - 3:23 pm

This is such a great confidence building tool! Thanks you so much for sharing it (and for your dad for coming up with it)!

valerie April 8, 2010 - 3:42 pm

I so needed this today!
(you always seem to do
that for me…)
I am so grateful for all the things you have taught me!

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:32 am


Erin from Skoots and Cuddles April 8, 2010 - 4:40 pm

what a wonderful memory. i love that you carried it on to your children. i think i will give it a try! thanks for the post.

Anonymous April 8, 2010 - 4:44 pm

Wow. Hope you don't mind if I do this today…what a great idea. The study concerns me though…what about those poor kids who were not told?

AmyMak April 8, 2010 - 5:26 pm

Thank you so much for this post. I completely believe it. We give kids labels at a very young age and b/c they are so little and trusting, they believe what we tell them – for good or for bad. I love this idea and want to start tracing letters on my children's fingers right now!

Goings on at the Glenn's April 8, 2010 - 5:28 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this post. It made me cry. Thanks for the lesson. I will have to do this with my children when they are a little older and can understand.

Ruth H. April 8, 2010 - 6:09 pm

Oh, thank you for sharing your memory, today. I needed to be given that inspiration.

The Duff Gals April 8, 2010 - 6:49 pm

Shawni – This has to be one of my favorite posts thus far! I am going to pass it around to my friends. Thank you so so much!

Shawni April 8, 2010 - 6:54 pm

Sonja, I thought the same thing about those other poor kids, but I'm sure they did it in a way that they didn't know who was "picked." At least I hope so!

Kate April 8, 2010 - 8:23 pm

I agree from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for writing about this Shawni.

Rachelle April 8, 2010 - 9:57 pm

Your parents continue to amaze and inspire!

Adams Family April 9, 2010 - 3:04 am

love this.

Thanks for the beautiful, inspiring and simple message.

love your blog! =)

SydneyMin April 9, 2010 - 3:21 am

Great post, Shawni. I also recently heard about a study where they split a group of students (college students I believe) and then gave each group the same test. One group was exposed to the letter "A" during the exam and in the other they were exposed to the letter "F." Guess which group did better overall? Yep – the "A" room. The power of positive thinking, and the power of the unconscious at work!

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:33 am

Super interesting!

The Senator's Wife April 9, 2010 - 3:24 am

Great post. Thanks for sharing!

Jelly April 9, 2010 - 7:21 am

What a brilliant idea!

Your Dad has always been special to me as he had a lot to do with my conversion to the gospel. He has always been a great influence to me.

Thank you for your blog, it's great!

Best wishes from the UK

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:34 am

I love that he was involved. Sending love on over!

Cathy M~ April 9, 2010 - 1:20 pm

My parents believed in me, too. I was ultra shy, too. You wouldn't know it now. I do something similar with my kids. On spontaneous occasions I write them a note about something I love about them & I leave it where they will find it. Also, when we go over grade cards we do it one on one in the study with the doors closed. We praise them for their attitude & effort & we celebrate with a dinner out. Simple & easy. Everyone looks forward to going over their grade cards! I am going to try the writing on their fingers~they will love that!

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:34 am

Such a great idea too!

Crystal April 9, 2010 - 4:26 pm

i remember reading this in your book. you have the greatest parents. i always think people with more than 4 or 5 kids must subscribe to the bigger taking care of the littler and could never have time to really do in depth parenting with that many children. you and your parents are an inspiration. i have three and i have learned so much from this blog and your book. you are all so wise.

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:34 am

Aw thank you Crystal!

Carol April 9, 2010 - 8:35 pm

Awesome post! I'm going to do this with my grandchildren. I remember growing up that my parents constantly validated and made me feel I could do anything that God wanted me to do.

Although they have been gone for many years now (my dad died when I was 19), I still remember how special he made me feel. His encouragement has helped me when I've been asked to do some difficult things (bishop's wife, stake RS president), and when I did not feel capable. I knew that with God's help, I could do it–all because of the way my parents loved me and taught me.

I believe our Heavenly Father wants to remind us how precious we are to Him and how talented we are. That is one of the blessings of scripture study to me 😉

Andrea and Casey April 9, 2010 - 8:59 pm

Brilliant idea! I will do this with my kids!

MarieC April 10, 2010 - 1:08 am

Thank you for this idea. I read it yesterday and did it with one of my girls today. Have a happy day!

Natali August 7, 2021 - 6:00 am

Such a lovely memory to share with us, and a great confidence booster for our kids, I’m absolutely done through this with my 12-year-old, we’re never too old to be told were talented🙏🌻

Eyrealm April 10, 2010 - 5:29 am

I'm honored to be the dad in this story, but, as usual, Shawni has out-done me at my own game!

Sarah S. April 10, 2010 - 6:38 pm

You don't know me but I had to leave a comment. I love your blog and find it so inspiring on so many different levels.

I have a son who is a bit of a "challenge" sometimes. He requires more love and attention than the average kid-o. As he was kicking and screaming as usual that he didn't want to go to school I took a moment to try this. IT WORKED! He went to school with his hands held high and only using his palms to open up doors, backpacks and books so that his "talents" would stay with him all day.

Thank you so much for this great tip. I plan on trying this again with him. Very few things work with him and some times I feel like I have exhausted all my options. From one mother to another thanks from the bottom of my heart.

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:35 am

I’m SO glad to hear this, even though it’s over ten years later! Yikes!

Fun On a Dime Lady April 13, 2010 - 6:09 am

Thanks for sharing this. I tried it with my son and then my daughter. The excitment on his little 4 year old face when he told me his talents was priceless. Totally loved it!

Becky December 2, 2012 - 6:32 am

Hi there,
I found your blog from mormon.org and I loved your joy in motherhood. Can I just tell you that I cry with thankfulness to have found your blog. I'm a mom of 4 (Very young) kiddos, and feel like thing are rushing ahead so much faster than I can keep up with – and you ideas about intentional mothering are so refreshing and sweet. Like I can use some of your ideas as a guide until I get my own 2 feet under me again (new baby kinda blows them out from under me every time). And you know what inspires me the most about your blog? Your oldest daughter and the looks of true happiness/enjoyment on her face as she does things with your kiddos. Like there is hope in teaching my oldest daughter about all of the things we see as important – and the thought that maybe she won't resent it in the future. Maybe our hard work won't be in vain after all. Thank Heaven for your gift of gab, and the seed of hope you planted in my heart this (late) night.

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:37 am

Hey Becky, it’s over ten years since you wrote this and I’m so sorry I was so horrible at responding back then (actually I still am!) but I came across this post today and wanted to send some love back somehow to all these awesome people!

Ashley June 24, 2013 - 8:59 pm

I love this post. So important for little ones to have the support and acknowledgement of their parents so they can strive to be their best. It's my first time checking out your blog and I have really enjoyed perusing your posts.
Shawni, you don't know me but I'm a friend of Annie's from graduate school. I have two kids of my own now and have recently started following some blogs, mostly about parenthood. Was excited to remember about yours and I look forward to following.

Tiffany April 12, 2014 - 12:49 am

I love this idea and would love to read the book, The Report Card, you refer to. I have searched online and can't find anything. Who is the author? Thanks!

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:38 am

I know it’s way too late and you’re way past this, but for anyone else wondering, it’s by Andrew Clements.

Jennifer Worthington Lower June 20, 2014 - 4:04 pm

Thank you for sharing this. We have been struggling somewhat with some things around here and I think we have been focused so much on what is WRONG that we have forgotten what is RIGHT or GOOD or our "Talents". I think we need to talk about what is going right more often.

Alyson Sword March 9, 2017 - 12:06 am

Shawni – Can you send me a link to the book? I can't seem to find it online? Thank you!

Shawni February 27, 2023 - 11:39 am

I know, also so late on responding, but here you go!

Freeya August 28, 2021 - 10:58 am

I agree with everyone whose posted above, gret ideas and easy one to establish at home.

Steph February 18, 2023 - 11:28 pm

I have been reading your blog for YEARS and had to come search for this tonight…
when I read it all those years ago this idea of the fingertips was the springboard to some personal revelation that clearly told me to do what became known as “5 things” with my kids every night at bedtime – telling them five things they did good that day. we did it all growing up and they would ask for it even as kids in high school (and it really was a tradition that saved relationships over some rough patches). I was talking to our missionary son today who started doing “5 things” with his second companion and 19 months in has done it with every one since, and he said as a leader he found out this week how that has spread to so many more missionaries in their mission. Just thought I’d tell you thanks for all you’ve shared over the years that I’ve learned from and how the ripples continue! 💛

Shawni February 23, 2023 - 10:27 pm

Oh this is the sweetest comment ever. Thank you so much for sharing, I’m so grateful this has worked for your family and love hearing the ripple effects. I love thinking of your sweet missionary out there doing the “5 things” to buoy up the other missionaries. There’s nothing quite like positive reinforcement, we all need it once in a while, right? Again, thanks so much for sharing and I’m sending love your way!


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