Parenting is hard work. It calls on mothers and fathers to really forget themselves and put their kids first. So it’s no wonder that sometimes, we take shortcuts. We buy them a toy rather than spend more time with them; we lose our temper rather than practice patience; we put on the TV at dinnertime instead of having a conversation.
That’s why a recent article from Time Magazine really stood out to me – because it was a reminder that tiny parenting moments, which seem so trivial at the time, can add up and have a lasting impact on our kids. Here are the five things kids will remember of you:
When you made them feel safe
My baby is not yet four months, but I can already sense how she feels safe when held by my husband or myself, especially when she’s in an unfamiliar environment. Kids are vulnerable; they have an innate need to be protected. When you think about how reckless children can be, it shows that they subconsciously put all their trust in their parents. But by the same token, they’ll remember the times they felt unsafe – something to think about when we lose our temper with them or show anger in their presence.
When you gave them your undivided attention
So simple, yet so often not done! I read an article recently about how 10 to 15 minutes a day of undivided attention for your child — no phone, no TV in the background, nothing else on your mind — is so beneficial. Talking with them, reading them a book, colouring with them or anything like that will do the trick. As the article put it, “What that gives them? The essentials to feel loved, safe, secure, self-assured, and valued. What it gives you? Much of the same and so much more.” Not to mention that it will help you create a relationship with your child that will last through to when they are adults.
The way you interacted with your spouse
I once read a fact that has always stuck with me is this: kids get a lot of security from seeing that their parents love each other. How beautiful and how true! I can see that my siblings and I certainly did benefit from the love between our parents, knowing that divorce was not an option for them. I think if parents are united – not fighting in front of the kids, only having good things to say about each other, and being affectionate and loving with each other – kids can’t help but feel safe.
Your words of affirmation
Parents are a kid’s whole world — it’s only natural that what they say will be remembered. I feel that if a child is told over and over that he or she is naughty, that’s how they’ll end up acting as it’s expected of them. If they are told the opposite and encouraged to be better, they’ll feel that their parents have faith in them to be their best selves. Correction is necessary for kids, of course, but as the Time article puts it, “let your words be full of love, encouragement and positive reinforcement.”
Your family traditions
I think that family traditions contribute to the feeling of belonging; something which is so important for kids. Whether it’s everyday things like dinner together around the table, weekly events like Sunday lunch with the grandparents, or the way that birthdays are celebrated (in my family, everyone would sneak into the birthday person’s room in the morning to wish them and open gifts), they are all bonding moments for the family unit – as well as customs they will use to build their own family unit one day.
Tamara El-Rahi is the editor of Family Edge, MercatorNet’s blog about family issues.