Have you ever heard the phrase, “Children are like sponges!” They absorb everything, just like a sponge. This is wonderful when it comes to learning and education. However, when it comes to life and the people they model themselves after it can be a dangerous thing. Do you ever ask yourself, “Am I shaping my child to become me?” Why is it happening whether I try to or not?
I’ve observed many children and parents over the years as a parent and an educator. People are all different. Their looks, their styles, their speech patterns, and their actions differ in so many ways. You can pick up on these different mannerisms, phrases, and attitudes just from noticing the little things. If you watch closely you can see how they interact with their children, the teachers, and other parents. Some people are friendly, some stand quietly, some are noisy, and others you never see. Adults can observe these differences, but they don’t necessarily become what they see. Children don’t really have a choice. They do what they see and hear.
Children see the things you don’t say louder than the things you tell them. You can tell them not to hit or not to say mean things. Telling them is one thing and showing them is another. I can tell my child not to hurt other children’s feelings, but if they watch me verbally abuse my husband they will do what I do not what I say. They can’t help it. My actions and who I am is shaping them into who they are. They will become like me. My actions will be theirs. My words will be theirs. Sometimes you will hear them say exact phrases that you yourself have said. That’s when you know it’s true. Hopefully, they are words you want to come out of their mouths.
The question is: Do I want my child to become me?
Are my actions ones that I want them to be following? Are my words ones that I want them to be saying? Sometimes when I answer these questions to myself, it is yes. I do think they should treat others the way I do. I do want my child to talk kindly to others the way I talk to my child. Other times, I sadly have to say no. I do not want my child to do what I just did. I do not want my child to react to situations the way I just did. I do not want them to have the fears and insecurities that I do.
Sometimes this means we have to hide our imperfections. There is a popular movement right now to be proud of who you are. Maybe there are times that you shouldn’t be proud. Perhaps, some of your weaknesses should be hidden and kept at bay. I am who I am. Yet, striving to better yourself shouldn’t be wrong either. Trying to set a better example for your child shouldn’t be shamed.
Does it change anything if I know that I influence every aspect of my child’s life? Yes, of course, it should! There are conversations that should be discussed without my child. My negative feelings about people they know or how other people are handling things should not be talked about in front of my child. My complaints about work or my co-workers should be a conversation for just my husband and I. Every negative conversation that my child hears becomes their opinion as well. They don’t know any better so they absorb it all. Now every bad thing I’ve said about someone is filling their brain. Now my negative thoughts and worries are theirs as well.
Every time I yell or overreact to a situation it teaches my child to yell or overreact when things happen to them. This is how Mom handled it, so I should too. The opposite is also true. If I shut down and stop talking to people when I’m mad, my child learns to do the same thing. It is very hard to help a child who shuts down and won’t share what is bothering them.
If you don’t like sarcasm and snotty responses don’t model it. The same is similar for disrespect and dishonesty. If you don’t like it coming from your child’s mouth then it can’t come from yours. Show them love and kindness. Show them how to care for others and treat others with respect. I purposely emphasize manners when I talk to my children. They reflect those manners back when they talk to me.
My children are not perfect, nor am I. However, being aware that they are watching me closely and also observing everything I do makes a big difference in my life. I want them to see the better side of me. I’m okay with trying to improve myself and feeling ashamed of my imperfections. My imperfections and shortcomings provide me with goals to overcome. I hope that yours will too. Be on alert. You are shaping your child to become you whether you like or not.
-Mom on the Move