Last week, TIME republished my article on The 5 things your kids will remember about you and then a few days later, the TODAY show discussed the article live on air. The response has been tremendous to those five simple points showing how much all of us as parents want to get this parenting thing right! A lot of conversations have been happening about these issues, because we all want to cultivate the right impressions and memories for our children.
Watch my short video on The 5 things your kids will remember about you (by clicking here).
As a followup to that popular piece, I want to focus in on a few unforgettable parts of growing up that I didn’t mention in the first post.
(In no particular order):
1. The times you gave them real responsibility.
Country singer Alan Jackson had a #1 hit song called “When Daddy Let Me Drive” which was a sweet tribute to his own dad about those times when his dad trusted him to drive the old truck down a dirt road or captain their old pontoon boat on the lake when he was still a kid. Those moments of being “trusted with the wheel” under a parent’s watchful-but-trusting eyes create beautiful and lasting memories. Look for ways to give your kids the opportunity to “drive” sometimes. Clearly, don’t put them behind the wheel on the interstate when they’re twelve-years-old, but find creative ways to affirm their growth and maturity through age-appropriate responsibilities and rewards.
2. The tone of your voice.
The words we speak to our kids matter so much, but the tone in which we speak those words matters just as much. Our kids will remember when our tone was warm and encouraging, firm and corrective, loving and affectionate, or sarcastic and angry. Let’s be intentional about our tone with our kids, because it’s creating a much bigger impression than we might realize. Even in those moments when we need to be firm and corrective, let’s make sure our love and concern is still being communicated.
3. The times you admitted fault and apologized.
Some parents think the only way to keep their parental authority is to seem “perfect” and never admit fault. Your kids already know you’re not perfect, but the good news is that they don’t need you be perfect; they just need you to be real. When you’ve blown it, having the courage to admit fault and apologize can create a powerful and memorable teaching moment that your children are not likely to forget. When we refuse to admit our faults, we’re creating memories too, but they’re the wrong kind. For more on this, check out my popular post on 7 ways parents harm their children without even realizing it.
4. The times you gave them clear boundaries.
Kids crave boundaries. I know they naturally rebel when you give them boundaries, but holding true to those boundaries ultimately gives them a sense of security and anchors them. Curfews are one things, but in our digital world, boundaries can be more difficult to establish, because they’re in the “virtual reality” more often than actual reality somedays. I’m no tech expert, but I know there are great resources out there. This new tool developed by Disney to protect your kids is one of the best innovations I’ve seen lately. Check it out.
5. The times you gave them a completely unexpected surprise*.
There’s a lot of comfort kids can find in the routine and family traditions, but one those rare moments when you completely surprise them, a golden memory is formed. These don’t happen very often and they usually require some careful planning, but whether it’s a surprise road trip or an unexpected gift, your thoughtfulness and planning will make a lasting impression.
*A quick note. Your kids might not always show their appreciation in the moment. This doesn’t always meet they’re spoiled or ungrateful. Sometimes, they’re just processing everything and it might be much later before the full impact of the gift really sinks in. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t respond the way you’d like. You’re probably making a bigger impression than you realize.
6. The times you laughed until your stomachs hurt!
There are few memories more beautiful than sharing a moment of uncontrollable laughter. The beautiful part of these memories, is that you can’t plan for them. These are the moments that take us by surprise when something outrageous and unexpected is said or done and laughter is the natural response. These memories, like parenthood in general, should be based on prioritizing time together. The more time you spend with your kids, the more of these beautiful memories and laughs you’ll share with them.
7. The times you showed up.
Kids often measure our love in terms of our time. Your time is a precious gift. Our Presence is much more important than our Presents. I know we have to work hard to provide for our families, but your family can do with less of almost anything if it means having more of you. Make time together a priority. In the end, you won’t regret not spending more time at work or on your hobbies, but you might regret not spending enough time with your family. Give them the best of yourself; not your leftovers. Making time for them is the only way to make memories with them.
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