I was remembering one time when two of my nephews came to visit. My kids were preschoolers and these boys were about five years older. They were surprised by how interested our kids were in spending time with them. I explained the awe of older cousins and let them know that they were also going to be acting as our children’s role models.
Kids learn by watching and imitating and the people they watch the most are us. We need to recall this when we are with our kids.
You Are Your Child’s Role Model
In the last 10 days I have seen a number of parents with a small child in hand approach an intersection. The adult glances at the light that is displaying the red hand. She grabs the child’s hand and races across the street.
I was reminded of the time my son and daughter, nine and 10 years old, both needed glasses. Their father and I wear glasses, so this was not a surprise. After a visit to the optometrist we engaged in the task of choosing frames, an exciting time to be sure.
The children appeared before their father, proudly showing off their new looks. Later that evening he pointed out to me a fact that I had missed in the hurly-burly of shopping. Each child had chosen frames almost identical to that of their same sex parent.
Without being told, my children had observed and learned what type of frames are appropriate for males and females in our family.
What does this have to do with the parent racing the light to cross the street? The child, nearly old enough to be out walking and crossing streets on her own, is learning. She is learning that it is okay to cross against a red hand as long as you run.
When you are participating in social situations such as neighbourhood potlucks, family dinners or restaurant meals your kids will be watching you to see how to behave. They will be watching and learning. How do we behave in public? How do you greet guests? What do you say when someone give you a gift? How do you converse with others?
“Do as I say, not as I do”, is an expression used by parents to excuse lousy role modelling. It didn’t work for our parents, and it won’t work for us.
Children learn by observing.
What our children are, how they act and react, their behaviour, the choices they make, are not random occurrences. Our children and their behaviour is a reflection of what they see happening around them and certainly a product of careful experimentation of what works and what doesn’t work.
Young children will imitate and learn easily. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that it’s up to you to live as you wish your children to live, and behave as you wish your children to behave.
Some adolescents are socially adept. They can converse comfortably with adults, handle themselves in a fancy restaurant, and greet guests in their homes. These teens understand the normal expectations in a variety of social situations. This is no accident. From a young age, they watched their parents and were exposed to social situations. They were expected to be gracious, to talk to guests of all ages. They were taught these skills; it isn’t just blind luck.
Pay attention to how you behave and what your kids are learning. And at the same time talk to your kids about the expectations in a variety of social situations.
There are so many images that come to mind when I think about children imitating their parents. I see the father who lectures his child about watching too much television, as he settles into his easy chair for yet another full evening of sports or sitcoms. I see the mother who comes home after a rough day declaring, “I need a drink”, then tells her daughter to handle stress by exercising. I see parents smoking, drinking and driving, and swearing; all the while telling their children to “Do as I say, not as I do.”
When your children engage in behaviours or activities that bother you, ask yourself, “Where did she learn that?”
Look in the mirror and see yourself.
Bring Kathy to your Community
Do you want to hear more? I am always happy to come and speak in your community, at your event or as a workplace wellness presentation. On her website you can find more information on her material.
My presentations will share a basic value that I call
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.
Next time you’re sitting in the doctor’s office, lying about fighting a cold or on transit and wish you had something to read, think about Parenting Today’s digital parenting books.
You can choose from Who’s in Charge Anyway? which talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults.
But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home talks about raising children to become capable young men and women. Vive la Différence focuses on specific parenting issues.
The first two are also available in print. Just log onto the store on the site and they are yours for the reading.
The books are down to earth and common sense as well as easy to read. If you want some basic parenting tips and information these books are a good place to start.