This article originally appeared on iMOM.com and was used with permission.
It’s funny the things kids never forget about parents, the random memories that have a permanent spot in our minds. One of those for me is Valentine’s Day 1991. I woke up to flowers and a card on the kitchen counter, but they weren’t for me. They were for my mom, obviously. Still, I was heartbroken. My dad argued, “But your mom is my Valentine.” Still, irrationally, I cried. That afternoon, he came home from work with a cookie and a homemade card in the shape of a heart. I still have the card and I’ll never forget how special my dad made me feel.
For good or for bad, parents leave indelible marks on their kids. It’s hard to know what moments or conversations our kids will remember, and there are some we’re hoping they’ll forget! But knowing what stays with our kids can help us be more intentional. Here are 7 things kids never forget about parents.
1. How Much You Yell or How Angry You Get
Of all the things kids never forget about parents, this is the one I hope they have the foggiest memories of because I’ve lost my temper more times than I want to admit. If you are a yeller or get angry easily like me, don’t beat yourself up. We can’t fix past mistakes, but we can learn from them and work to change.
Memory-making goal: Help your kids remember how you put in effort to grow in patience and overcome issues with your temper.
2. Your Love Language
I’m not saying your kids know your love language, but they will remember the way you most often showed them love. My sons will remember that I constantly gave hugs because physical touch is my primary love language. Your kids might look back and say, “My dad always surprised us with a tiny gift when he came home from work trips,”—gift-giving—or “My dad always told us how special we were to him,”—words of affirmation.
Memory-making goal: Learn your kids’ primary love languages and speak them.
3. That Time You Surprised Them
There’s something so special about an unexpected treat or outing. Big or small, surprises are among the things kids never forget about parents. I woke my kids up one Saturday morning and said, “Get in the car. We’re going for donuts!” We all went in our pajamas and had a ball. Kids love when their parents loosen up and get spontaneous.
Memory-making goal: Let go of the schedule more often. Even if you’re not a spontaneous person, find something small you can do to surprise your kids.One decision at a time, be the person you want your kids to grow up to be.
4. The Way You Act When No One Is Watching
Whether we like it or not, our kids see what we do. If we walk out of the grocery store without paying for paper towels that were on the bottom rack of the cart, they see. If we pick up litter that someone else dropped, they see. If we pray after hanging up the phone with a friend who’s sick, they see.
Memory-making goal: Avoid the “don’t do as I do, do as I tell you” mentality. One decision at a time, be the person you want your kids to grow up to be.
5. Your Family Traditions
Traditions give your kids a sense of identity and belonging. My parents used to listen to the oldies station every Sunday on the way home from church. We sang along to The Supremes, Four Tops, and The Righteous Brothers and I got a little taste of my parents’ childhoods.
Memory-making goal: Look around at what little habit your family already does and embrace it. Make it more special by giving it a name, like my parents’ “Sunday Oldies Sing-Along.”
6. How You Made Them Feel
My mother-in-law is the greatest encourager I know. If I need a boost, she’s my go-to. Growing up, her kids thought they could do anything because their mom made them feel so confident. Whether you make them feel like a million bucks or filled with shame, your kids will remember.
Memory-making goal: Really ponder what feeling you want your kids to walk away with after being around you. Write that word down somewhere visible to you and make that a goal.
7. The Way You Supported Them.
Having Dad on the sidelines cheering is something a kid will never forget. Cheering your kid on at the science fair, at a pee-wee football game, or as he asks a girl to the dance is something that sinks down deep in the heart and stays.
Memory-making goal: Even if your kids pursue something that’s not interesting to you, show up for them and tell them they’ve got this.
Sound off: What are some other things kids never forget about parents?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you want people to remember you?”