There are plenty of times my friends or family reference specific moments in my childhood, and I just can’t for the life of me remember what they’re talking about — it’s very interesting what we end up remembering about our lives. There are, however, certain things I can perfectly pinpoint about my childhood, no matter what age I was at the time, like how my mom reacted to my grandfather passing, the chunk of time my dad was working in another state at a new job and missed my school play, and the way my mom would greet my dad when he got home from work.
Because there are certain things that tend to stick with kids as they grow up, these seven things are worth thinking about as you raise your littles.
1- The experiences you had with them.
They might not remember every toy you got them for their birthday, or how many times you bought them ice cream, but whatever the reason, certain things stick with a person through their whole life and there’s really no telling what exactly makes them remember one thing so fondly over another. Experiences, rather than things, bring families together, so they’ll remember the time it was just you two at the ice cream shop, slurping on milkshakes and enjoying each other’s company more than the ice cream itself.
2- The time you put your device down for them.
So often now we watch special moments through our phone camera and miss the little things that our kids are trying to show us because we aren’t present enough in the moment. When you give your child undivided attention and put down your device, they can feel that they have all of you, and they can feel how loved they are in those moments. They know you love them all the time, but it’s in those special times when it’s just you and them that they really notice you care, especially when you’ve stopped checking your email just to be with them.
3- Your positive words for them.
In a world where the idea of love can be a bit overused, saying, “I love you,” isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all. There are so many other things you can say to positively affect your child like, “I’m proud of you,” “You make this family better,” and “You’re a good friend” — all of those phrases start affecting their self-worth and identity from an early age, so keeping things positive rather than critical will be something they’ll remember.
4- How you handled tough situations.
Kids look to you for guidance because they are navigating a world that they are unsure of, a world that makes them feel vulnerable. When hard times roll through — like dealing with loss or illness within the family — they’ll remember the way you spoke to them, how you made them feel safe and protected, and how you reacted.
5- The times you weren’t there.
Though this sounds super negative, it’s also a positive. Though they may remember the times you weren’t there when they needed you — it’s just a part of life because you can’t always be there — they’ll also remember the time they finally stayed overnight at a sleepover without calling to come home in the middle of the night, or the first time they did something huge at school that they couldn’t wait to run home and tell you about. Those will be things that they remember as independent adults.
6- The way you and your partner behave around other adults (and each other).
Kids take cues from you all the time, and when you’re talking about someone behind her back or treating someone badly, they’ll pick up on you engaging in that type of behavior, and could interpret it as OK behavior for them to display themselves. When you’re home with your kids and you and your partner are interacting in front of them, keep things positive, loving, and nurturing, because they are always watching and learning from you even when you’re not fully paying attention to it.
7- How you acted under stress or pressure.
Life can’t always be carefree and easy, and your kids will pick up on how you act when the schedule is packed, there are school projects due, dinner isn’t made yet, and you feel like you’re going to go insane. If you’re the type to crack under pressure, they can tell, and if you want to raise kids who can handle stress like pros, you have to be aware of the way you handle yourself.