Parenthood is never easy. It’s natural for every parent to want the best for their child; thus going to great lengths to equip their little one with essential skills, tools and education to help them succeed in later life.
But where the child is concerned, there will be little to no memory of acing each developmental milestone. What impacts the childhood memories they carry into adulthood wouldn’t be the money you spent on various enrichment classes or the many expensive toys you bought them.
Instead, it will be filled with memories of the seemingly trivial time spent together and how you made them feel: that fun, impromptu outing to the zoo, playing with the neighbours’ kids after school, of you reading their favourite bedtime story… As you raise your little one, keep in mind these six things that will stick with your child long after they grow up.
Having your undivided attention
Between raising a kid and holding down a job (amongst other parental duties), finding the time to give your little one 100% of your attention can be challenging. But because children primarily measure their parents’ love by attentiveness, the moments you stop what you’re doing to play a game of catch, fill in a colouring book or even to talk about cyborg giraffes and zombies, will be deeply etched into their memories.
Make it a point to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes of quality, distraction-free time together every day – this means no smart devices too. During which, ensure that you are completely present in the moment doing an activity your child enjoys. This gives them the essentials to feel loved, self-assured and valued.
The way you handle tough situations
Being a parent doesn’t automatically render immunity from the inevitable stress, pains and traumas in life. But how you react to pressuring situations is important because of the little ones who are watching. From patiently waiting in line to forging ahead in the face of rejection, to standing your ground against a bully, how your child behaves in these circumstances will often be a direct result of how you react.
The times you apologised
You are bound to make mistakes throughout your parental journey, but being able to admit your faults will not take away parental authority whatsoever. In fact having the courage to be real with your child and being able to apologise for your mistakes creates a powerful and unforgettable teaching moment for both parent and child. And it sets a good example for your child to follow in similar situations.
How you and your spouse interact
A child’s expectations on love and relationships is often built on their parents’ own marriage. Even from a young age, little ones are able to sense more than they let on; an unhappy or strained relationship can cause them to have feelings of anxiety and insecurity. Likewise, fostering a harmonious relationship between parents, and limiting having fights in front of the children, will help them form positive impressions and healthy mindsets to fall back onto as adults.
Additionally, your social interactions, be it with friends, relatives, or even complete strangers, set the bar for their own actions. It is difficult to undo ingrained behaviours. In their presence, refrain from making snide remarks about others or displaying impatience. Lead by example by being polite and showing empathy – it will pay off in the long run.
Your affirming actions
As primary pillars of support for your child, it’s a given that your actions and any words you say (both positive and negative) bears weight in their young minds. And while you may be their protector most of the time, there will be occasions where you’d be what they feared the most.
“Why are you so naughty?”, “You are a constant disappointment!”, “Why can’t you get it right?” It is daunting not to lose your temper or express disappointment when your child is acting out, but avoid resorting to negative criticism. Especially during their formative years, children base a large part of their sense of identity, abilities and self-worth on parents’ words. Where correction and discipline is concerned, let positive reinforcements and encouragement lead the way.
While structured routines offer children much comfort, springing surprises on them will form lasting and pleasant memories. Be it surprising them with a coveted toy, or bringing them on an unexpected family getaway, these fun moments express your love and thoughtfulness that they will remember even when we’re long gone.