“It can be surprising, comical, or downright unsettling when you catch yourself in your children.”
Most people can remember a time when their parents proclaimed ‘Wait until you have kids of your own someday!’. When you are young (a teenager especially), you don’t fully grasp the magnitude of that statement and maybe roll your eyes in sarcasm. At least I did.
If you grew up to have children of your own, suddenly you understand with clarity the meaning of your parent’s decree. Your little ones grow leaps and bounds from infancy and beyond observing your behavior. They listen to your words, watch your actions, and sense your emotions in context. As a parent you do your best to raise ‘good children’ who ultimately grow into good people with a respect and drive for life, health, education, and success. You value their innocence and notice some of your positive traits shining through.
“Look how much these cuties love animals.”.
“Look how great they perform in school!”.
“Look how sweet and gentle our kids are with others.”.
But what happens when you see the bad? Trust me, it’s there too.
This morning my kindergarten daughter scolds me saying “Mom, you didn’t make me pancakes!”. Her voice annoyed. She had one hand on her hip and the other pointing a finger at me. Yikes.
I replied “Honey, I didn’t hear you ask for pancakes or surely I would have made them for you.”. I noticed I sounded annoyed in my reply.
Her response “Well, that’s because you weren’t listening Mommy. I said it at least two times already you know. You should listen when people talk to you!”.
There it was. MYSELF!
That must be what I sound, look, and act like toward the children. I often speak with sarcasm. I stomp around proclaiming no one listens to me. I demand to know why I have to repeat myself a hundred times and resort to anger or frustration to get myself heard!
The funniest (or most disconcerting) is when my three year old daughter puts her baby dolls in time out. She drags them to the steps, hollers, and sometimes issues a spanking. Hmmm. From where on earth did she learn that behavior?
Or how about when my son gets so frustrated with his math homework, he erases the entire page and starts over. THE WHOLE PAGE! He doesn’t realize how far he’s setting himself back. Pushing himself further away from the goal of being done. “Really, we have to start over? It took twenty minutes to get this far!” He’s always striving for perfection. Man the apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree.
Children… it’s like looking in the mirror at an image of yourself. Good and bad.
How can you help your children not repeat in themselves some of the bad you find in yourself? I try to talk to them. Curb the unwanted behaviors while they are young and maybe impressionable to change. Or is it too late?
This parenting gig doesn’t come with a handbook. Although I’m sure there are countless books I could read for advice. Note to self, buy a parenting book!
Below are tactics I think would be useful and need to practice myself.
Find the Trigger – If you can identify the cause of unwanted behavior before it happens, ward it off. Try to herd behavior to a desired outcome.
Reward Good Behavior – When good behavior presents itself, reward it. Don’t ignore it.
Strive for Small Changes –You can’t expect a bad habit to resolve in one sitting, aim for small strides in the right direction.
Talk it Out – It’s hard to reason with children, it doesn’t always resonate but give it a try. I literally tell my kids that there are things I don’t like about myself that I’m working on changing and tell them I don’t want them to behave in those same ways and why. It’s like story-telling. They enjoy listening and I think I’m getting through.
Don’t be so hard on yourself – You are a product of your parents and they are a product of their parents. No one’s got this stuff completely figured out. Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you get up every day and care for your kids to the best of your ability, you’re doing a great job! Parents aren’t perfect! They don’t need to be. It’s how you handle the imperfect moments and aftermath that teaches the biggest life lessons.
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