The 5 things your kids will remember about you

The 5 things your kids will remember about you April 15, 2015

mom kissing daughter

My wife Ashley and I just had our fourth baby. Having a new baby in the house has made me feel more nostalgic than usual and I’ve reflected back on my own childhood. I’ve thought about the memories that stick out in my mind and I think about the memories I want my own children to hold onto. I want to be intentional about every precious moment.

Jerry Seinfeld jokes that, “Babies’ sole purpose is to replace us! That’s why their first words are, “Mama, Dada…Bye Bye.”

It’s a funny joke, but also an important reminder that life is short and our time with our kids is going to go by fast. With that in mind, I want to make the most of every minute and create the kind of legacy that will endure long after I’m gone. This isn’t a morbid thought, but rather an important way to stay focused on what matters most with every minute we have with our kids.

As the Bible says, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.” Psalm 39:4

As parents, we tend to stress about things that don’t matter all that much. Our kids probably aren’t going to remember every detail of our home decor, or how perfect our landscaping looked or whether our refrigerator was stocked was name brands or generics. Let’s focus on what really matters. If you want to know what your kids will remember about you, here it is:

5 things your kids will remember about you:

1. The times you made them feel safe (or the times you made them feel unsafe).

There’s a vulnerability and a need for protection in the heart of every child. Your kids will remember those moments you chased the monsters from under their bed or held them after a nightmare, but they’ll also remember the times when your temper became the monster they feared. Our kids are probably going to see us angry sometimes, because that’s part of life, but make it your mission to make your children feel safe and secure at all times when they’re with you.

2. The times you gave them your undivided attention.

Kids measure love primarily by our attentiveness to them. The times you stop what you’re doing to have a tea party or go outside to throw a ball or jump on a trampoline with be memories etched into their minds and hearts forever. Take the time to do the little things with your kids, because in the end, they’ll be the moments that matter most.

Dave Willis quotes quote truly listen love and respect

3. The way you interacted with your spouse.

Our kids are forming their views of love in large part by watching how we treat our husband or wife. Strive to have the kind of marriage that makes them excited to get married someday. Give them the security that comes from seeing their Mom and Dad in a committed, loving relationship with each other.

seven laws of love book quote Dave Willis #7lawsoflove children parenting treat your spouse husband wife

For more on building a strong marriage and happy family, check out my brand new book The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships (by clicking here).

4. Your words of affirmation AND your words of criticism.

A child’s heart is like wet cement and the impression made early in life will harden over time. They’ll base their sense of identity, capability and even self-worth largely upon the words you speak to them in those formative years. Part of our job as parents is to correct and discipline, but even in correction, let your words be full of love, encouragement and positive reinforcement.

Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already. Dave Willis quote

5. Your family traditions.

Kids love spontaneity, but they also have  deep need for predictability. They’ll remember with great fondness the “traditions” you establish whether it’s a weekly family movie (or game) night, a place you regularly travel for family getaways, the way you celebrate birthdays and special events or any other special tradition. Be intentional about creating some traditions that they’ll want to pass onto their own children someday.

For more tools to help you build a happy and healthy family, you can connect with me on Facebook by clicking here and check out my brand new book The Seven Laws of Love.

Dave Willis quote seven laws of love #7lawsoflove book relationships

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Great advice! We agree, the words we speak aren’t nearly as important as the examples we model for our children. Actions do indeed speak louder than words.

  • corey magin

    Read the headline again. Things your kids will remember about YOU.

  • corey magin

    Truth. Focus on yourself and your spouse and everything else will fall in to place. Sure – words of wisdom will help them on their journey but nothing speaks louder than our actions.

  • Rachel

    “I win”
    GoodDad you sound a bit narcissistic.

  • Jessica Ashby

    Love it! Too many times as a parent we focus on whether the house is cleaned, or our busy schedules. Thank you for the reminder that what matters most are the memories we make and the love we share as a family.

  • Tammy

    I think smells will be an important memory. I know I connect them with times in my life.

  • EBR

    You didn’t think it was important to make your child feel safe? That’s about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard! That’s like the #1 need of a child is to feel safe and secure. I bet if your kids were honest, they’d tell you they remember you being a butt. Hate to knock you off your high horse, but I’m glad you weren’t my dad….

  • Jim

    I Have 3 wonderful girls under the age of 10. They all have there own unique qualities. I am too a confident person but i disagree with alot of the good dads “confident” Parenting techniques ! Like i said ,my 3 are under 10 years of age, so I know that I have a long way to go! I think that every childs personality is different but we should help each other find these qualities and try to direct their focus on what we feel are there finer qualities or attributes. so then we aren’t lying to them about anything. To me the toughest part is hoping they are confident enough to find these good qualities that all people poses. I think its great that it seems like his daughter has turned out well.especially after following those guidelines! I mean no disrespect sir , i have read your statements several times now and it is very confusing for me. For someone to never except disrespect , Except Criticism , the world isn’t safe , You aren’t beautiful, below average , ETC. She is super women if she was able to conquer all of that and thank you for your advice. in my opinion it takes self esteem and confidence to take on life, How else are you gonna find out how to accomplish those things ,especially with the description of life that you gave them. again i mean no disrespect , im very interested in learning everything i can about the does an donts of how to raise a child. i have to believe that your wife disagreed with you alot and he children sided with her! WOW! What ever works! I did enjoy The Authers Description and I also enjoyed your Views thanks

  • Jenn

    Those are important lessons, too. However, look back on your own childhood and think about those moments that are etched in your memory – most them probably fall into one of the categories listed above. Which are not inconsistent with anything you said here if you meant them the way I hope you did.

    As for the “not making them feel safe” – because that will draw flak, if by that you mean you taught them how to deal with a world that is unsafe, and to push beyond what feels safe and take chances and to know that you and their family were a safe place for them to fall- always, then I agree. If by that you mean you deliberately made them feel unsafe or scared, then you screwed up and your children are paying the price for that. The world is not safe – YOU should always be safe for your children.

    The desire to protect our children is what leads to helicopter parents and more and more evidence is coming out that that has the exact opposite effect. In trying to keep them safe, we are sending them out into the real world unprepared and they are crashing into it and imploding. Don’t protect your kids from everything – it brings them harm to do so. Teach them, instead, to be self-sufficient, to have confidence that the world won’t end if they fall down and that failure is the furthest thing from the worst that can happen. That is what will lead to resiliency in them as adults. Life is not safe. Life is not supposed to BE safe. Competent adults don’t look for safety – they thrive on taking chances and learning so soar. And when they crash, they know they can pick themselves up and take another leap to try again. Wrapping them in bubble wrap breaks that in them – and handicaps them. But parents should ALWAYS, always be safe for their children and protect them from serious harm.

    We do our children no favors by telling them they are extraordinary for things they have no control over (like intelligence and looks). And more and more research is demonstrating that. Kids know that the trophy mommy is gushing over is utterly meaningless because everyone got one – and they don’t think much of mommy for gushing over something so dumb. My niece, at the ripe old age of 6, actually said “it doesn’t mean anything; everyone got one.” So, I learned from her to praise things that matter – like her hard work to prepare for whatever the participation trophy was given for; that she got up and kept going after she fell on her butt in front of 100 people, that she has stuck to this thing that is hard for so long. That is what we should praise.

    Even when children ARE beautiful – that is not what makes them special, and that does not make them any more deserving of love. When parents tell them they are brilliant and praise that, they expect it of themselves and start refusing to try things that are difficult; they see failure as the end of the world and expect everything to be easy (“because if I’m as brilliant as mommy says I am, then everything should be easy; if it’s not, then I must be a failure or a fraud.”). That is not what I want for my children. Far better to praise their hard work, kindness, honesty, sense of humor, compassion, etc. That is what actually leads to self-confidence. Being told again and again how pretty or smart they are actually has the opposite effect. They begin to believe their parents are just biased and that they are in fact below average in intelligence and looks. In truth, they shouldn’t be praised or shamed for their looks or their brains – they should only be proud of what they have power over. Being pretty or smart doesn’t make you worthy or good – all it means is you got lucky. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Children don’t need to be told again and again that they are pretty or smart – they need to know they can handle life, that if they work hard they can overcome anything and that having a beautiful soul is what makes you truly beautiful, not a pretty face.

    I don’t necessarily agree with “accept criticism” in the sense of accepting it as valid, but I do agree with accepting it as a part of life and learning how to handle it – both when it is justified and when it is not. And learning to let it roll off of your back when it is not. You can learn something from anyone – even if that is how not to treat other people.

    I would add to number 5 that one should not only depend on oneself, but also learn to be interdependent. Life is not lived in isolation. We all need each other. There is such a thing as too much independence and self-reliance. Stand up when others are counting on you and have the confidence to lean when you need to. Trust is as much about faith in yourself as it is about faith in other people. And measure success by more than the amount of money you earned. Respect and value the contributions of others (especially your spouse) to your life and well-being, even when it is not financial. There is no shame in needing help. There is only shame in taking advantage of, manipulating or harming others to get your way. Everyone needs help sometimes. Anyone who says they don’t is lying.

  • Margaret Ann Snow

    celery and onions — Thanksgiving mornings

  • pepperplane

    What a super article. Plenty of food for thought and encouragement.

  • Killer B

    What do YOU remember about your childhood & parents? Those are the things that your children will most likely remember as well.

  • Jim

    It’s funny too me how easy it is to misunderstand post or comments ! I do agree with your original post now that you have explained it differently. I was responding to this last night and my phone died , so I apologize if you have already recieved a similar response from me. I’m misinterpreted all of the time now that typing is our most common form of communication. But in response to your text, I believe that I am using similar parenting methods of yours! I think that you might have used more of a ” tough love ” approach than I am using and I hope I don’t end up regretting it. I also think that we are very fortunate to be having this discussion ! At least at your and your children’s point of time in your lives ! We could easily be talking about a lot bigger problems that a lot of people could be and are already facing today and it sounds like you’ve just come out on the good side and I’m just going in with hope of coming out on that same side. I guess this is one form of preventative maintenance ” for lack of a better word. “! You also made me aware of some things that I have bee doing unknowingly . As far as pointing out some of our imperfections. Thanks for taking the time to explain your text to me and your free advice. I usually don’t comment to any posts but I’m glad that I did. Please excuse my typing errors and my weak ability to get my point across in text format. Thx jim

  • stephaniejane81

    This article hit the nail on the head b/c its exactly what I desired as a child growing up. And its been in my heart to strive to do these things for my son. Its possible to do these things consistently, although not perfectly–only by the grace of God though.

  • Stephanie Brooks

    great article unless you don’t have a spouse.

  • Les

    Except that “positive reinforcement,” from a psychological perspective, does not necessarily mean “positive.” It is adding a factor of conditioning. Adding can refer to punishment. It’s a misused term that irritates me lol

  • I’mNotInCharge

    Still a great article despite marital status, unless you really can’t pull anything from it.

  • CAmom760

    Well, that’s the perspective he’s writing from. Perhaps you could write one from the non-spouse perspective. See how that works?

  • Great article no matter what. The time we gave our children our undivided attention, in my humble opinion, is perhaps why they can’t forget us as their parents.

  • fromperpig

    This is for “great dog” owners…

    Ever wonder why your pooch loves you, always lites up when you come home from work, never refuses a walk in the park and crawls into bed with you every night? It’s simple: Because dog’s don’t know how to use a toilet, they can’t fry up an egg and they can’t work a door knob (to let themselves out). And, because they rely solely on your care and love, you are required to “invest” in them, 24-7-365.

    Great parents perform daily “maintenance” for the well being of their children, every single day!!!!!…even if their kids are old enough to care for themselves. Because, kids can’t pat themselves on the back, offer words or encouragement or hug themselves when they’re feeling down. Great parents don’t try to buy their kid’s love. Love must be earned. If you don’t put in the time and effort, everyday, just like you do for your pooch, don’t expect your kids to show you must love, loyalty………or come (home) when you call them, either.