Kids Connect: “I Love You Rituals”

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A morning song sung to wake up. A tickle to elicit a laugh. A push on a swing set with requests to go higher. A game of basketball.

These interactions are often commonplace between parents/caregivers and children, but some might not know how often these tools of connection are also used between teachers and students. 


Round and round the garden, goes the Teddy Bear.
(gently trace finger in a circle around child’s palm)

One step, two step
(walk your fingers up child’s arm)

Tickle you under there!
(tickle under chin, under arm, or tummy)


The example above is called an “I Love You Ritual” and is taken from Conscious Discipline, a social-emotional learning program we employ at United Inner City Services (UICS).

Conscious Discipline was founded by Dr. Becky Bailey and teaches adults to regulate their own emotional states when responding to children so they can stay fully present in the moment, connect with the child, and then work through the feelings the child is having together. This approach helps parents and teachers transition from traditional disciplinary reactions to positive learning moments and connectivity. 

“I Love You Rituals” are intentional tools and activities that help children learn, discover, and develop through play. To observe I Love You Rituals in action, here’s a helpful video: I Love You Rituals – Your Guide For Meaningful Connections.

“There are four components to ‘I Love You Rituals’: being present with the child, making eye contact, playfulness, and touch. Being present is the most important of them all though,” explained Ms. Theresa Brandt, UICS-St. Mark Center Behavior Interventionist and Student Success Coordinator. 

In a time where social distancing is advisable, Ms. Theresa also shared that maintaining the practices with omitting physical touch can still provide impactful connection. “While touch releases positive endorphins, we can still use the other elements of “I Love You Rituals” as a resource to create positive connections with our students.” 

Essentially, “I Love You Rituals” are fun and creative ways to encourage optimal learning experiences, increase attention span, and instill self-confidence. Sometimes expressed in song form, they also help with relationship building, problem solving, self-regulating, and facilitating language development. 

“They don’t need to be the exact songs from the Conscious Discipline website. Sometimes we get tripped up in remembering the lyrics and actions,” Ms. Theresa clarified. “You can really make up anything! I like finding a playful song to go with whatever the student is playing with or interested in.”

UICS-St. Mark Center teacher and “I Love You Ritual” practitioner, Ms. Casie Heaton shared, “‘I Love You Rituals’ are a way for everyone to feel connected and focused. It’s a way of saying, ‘I’m listening to you. I see you!’”

Ms. Casie provided a specific example. “I have a sweet student who has a hard time getting here in the morning and misses mom and dad when she is dropped off. ‘I Love You Rituals’ have helped her feel safe and loved at school.” 

While these techniques are used individually for UICS students to build relationships and trust, they also demonstrate great value in classroom group settings to connect, minimize power struggles, and address needs of the children. 

Ms. Theresa elaborated, “‘I Love You Rituals’ are helpful when teachers are working with a group of students. Our students need that one-on-one attention. They are a way for teachers to make every student feel special and receive that individualized and intentional connection through eye contact and playfulness. “ 

In addition to connecting and adding joy through a playful song or activity, “I Love You Rituals” provide great benefit during daily routines or transitions from one thing to the next.

Ms. Casie explained, “I like to use them when we are moving on to something different. It helps the students relax and focus on the new activity.” 

“I Love You Rituals” positively gain a child’s attention while making them feel safe, special, and engaged. They spur positive behavior and meaningful connection. 

As UICS continues to seek and embrace ways to foster connection for our students and provide helpful resources to parents, we are grateful for our credentialed staff who work tirelessly to make every student feel safe and valued and in a prime place to learn. They also work diligently to give parents toolkits to help them give their children long-term success with relationships at school and home.

For more information about “I Love You Rituals” and resources to help connect to the little learners in your life, we encourage you to visit the Conscious Discipline website here. If you’re a UICS parent, you can also ask your student’s teacher!