At 22 and 18 years old, my girls love to hear us talk about them when they were young.

You know, back when bathing suits were called “baby-suitins”, bicycles were called “bikle-cycles” and refrigerators were “fridger-jitters”.

They love to reminisce about their childhoods and the more they hear, the more they want to hear. They remember planting jelly beans in the ground and waking up on Easter to a garden full of lollipops that magically grew overnight. They remember when Ty pooped in the bathtub that she was sharing with Erica…

I had a vision for what childhood should look like AND for what it shouldn’t look like. I knew that a nurturing and fulfilling childhood filled with validation and structure could lead to great self-esteem. I also knew first hand that a childhood filled with shame and self-doubt, fear and anxiety and too much independence could lead to terribly low self-esteem.

I have said it before and I will say it again…

I was determined to bestow upon my daughters, the most empowering gift of all. The gift of amazing self-esteem… and I did.

So today I share with you 3 of my “shoulds” and 3 of my “shouldn’ts”… (there are many but I will share 3)

Childhood SHOULD be about…

1)   Creating wonderful memories. For us, it was painting seashells after a trip to the beach. Baking cookies at Grammy’s house. Family apple picking days. Making Halloween costumes. Family game nights. Singing in the car. Picnic lunches. Family vacations. Sleepover parties. And much, much more…

2)   Learning life lessons in a positive but clear manner. We had difficult but important conversations with our girls about death, grief, dishonesty, friendship, disappointment, expectations and much more. We didn’t hide important things from our children because we assumed they couldn’t handle it. Instead, we taught them that they could handle anything with the support of their loved ones!

3)   Feeling validated and important. Probably the MOST important of the three! Asking my children for their opinions was so validating to them. Asking them what they thought about a situation and having a dialogue with them about it made them feel important and useful and appreciated. I asked thought-provoking questions of them and then praised and respected their responses. Those were life changing, self esteem building moments that were crucial to who they became and were an important part of their process.

Childhood SHOULD NOT by about…

1)   Constantly feeling shame and embarrassment. Being made to feel constant shame for mistakes and lapses in judgment corrodes the esteem of a person. When we feel like we fail repeatedly we flip the “I’ll keep trying” switch to the “I quit” position. This is hard to come back from in adulthood and most people don’t.

2)   Feeling responsible for grown up stuff. When your grown ups are in crisis, it is easy to take the blame. Children can feel “in the way” over adult money issues, relationship situations, depression and much more.

3)   Wondering if you are loved. When parents are not deliberate about raising children and they are simply trying to make it through each day, children begin to question their worth. Do they love me? Am I lovable? Am I important to them? Am I more trouble than I’m worth? It is a lonely and miserable feeling that lends itself to little to no self-esteem.

Parenting is hard work. No one is discounting that! Set goals for what you want for your children. Be deliberate about reaching those goals and make them a priority, even on the bad days.

And lastly, record your memories! Through the years, it has become more and more easy to do this. Through advanced technology we can shoot a quick video, snap a pic or voice record those words that are difficult for our little ones to articulate, I promise you, your adult children will drink this stuff up later and them happily reminiscing about these memories will be incredibly validating to you as a parents!

Authored by: Randy Patterson