Role Modeling:

What Your Child Really Learns from You

I was standing at "The Corner Bakery" checkout line, an upscale, tasty, and pleasant café not far from where I live. It was the rush of Sunday brunch, a gorgeous Fall day; blue skies, bright sunshine, a calm breeze. The aroma of the fresh baked bread and muffins completed the welcoming mood. I was the last person in line; then a mother and daughter walked in and stood right behind me. I have to admit that as soon as they walked in I felt the need to observe their behavior. We all sense, from time to time, the need to watch and observe other people's behavior, especially when they don't suspect a thing; when it comes to parents and children, I must say, I frequently sin. The little girl, about 8 or 9 years of age, was literally hanging off of her mom's belt, trying to get her hand, seemingly, into the handbag the mom was carrying. The mom was reluctantly trying to prevent her from doing so. The girl began to whine, as the mom was losing her patience. 

So far, nothing unusual; just one small battle of the many we endure with our children. But what did catch my attention in this scene were the sounds that both mom and daughter were making while struggling with one another. It was the exact same tone of voice; the same moan, the same whine. It was as if one was the duplicated echo of the other.

What we want to understand is that when we say, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" we mean that our children are observing and absorbing so much about us, so much of which is done subconsciously and with little awareness. And yes, they have our genes and our makeup, but most of all they acquire our behaviors. Neither we, nor them, realize how much they learn from us, and how much they imitate and copy us, and not all is good, of course. Now it might be hard to always monitor ourselves to realize when our own behavior is appropriate and when it's not; but the truth of the matter is that we don't have much choice: we need to do so. From the time we become parents our children are completely dependent on us in so many ways, one of which is learning proper behaviors. And as our responsibility is in feeding, clothing, and keeping them safe, it is in role modeling for them. 

Now, there really isn't any harm in whining, unless we simply don't like it. There's no need to be perfect; we simply cannot. The most we need to do is listen to ourselves and observe our own behaviors when we are raising children who look up to us. We want to remember that our children see their home as the reflection of the whole environment around them, i.e. - their home life is a micro-cosmos to the rest of the cosmos. And no, we might not always be able to change who we are, or even want to change who we are, we merely want to be honest about who we are and be able to face our own behaviors in our children when we see them. Unless, we don't like it and thus are willing to change. 

How many times we say to our child: "only two more minutes…" as two minutes go by -three, four, or more times? How many times we threat: "stop (or 'put this down, don't!' etc), or I will…"? The great failing in this is in our negligence to listen to ourselves. If we did, we might have asked ourselves: 'why am I saying this? I clearly don't mean it.'  

Let's look at some other examples:

  • If you're a yeller, you will wake up one day to your children yelling just like you.
  • If you are rude to service people, your children would see this as a way of treating people in general.
  • If you make degrading remarks towards people of different race, gender, or religion, your children will learn that racism-sexism is accepted and agreed upon.
  • If you're impatient, your children might have a low frustration level. 
  • If you're fearful of life, overly worried, or often sad or depressed - your children would have a hard time seeing life from a cheerful point of view. 
  • If you don't follow through on promises or projects, tend to be late, put off plans, etc. - it would be hard of you to ask your children to be prompt and punctual.
  • If you tend to be dramatic in your problem solving tactics and throw tantrums easily, your children will model this as a way to solve their problems and manipulate themselves out of difficult situations. 
  • If you have a hard time feeling compassionate towards other people's feelings, your child will have a hard time learning to respect your feelings or ideas. 

Obviously, the list can go on and on, as all of us can check ourselves from time to time to raise our own awareness. We can see it as a second chance to re-evaluate our morals and behaviors. Many people before me have stated that children are our best teachers, as I so agree with that. The more we understand the responsibility we have in raising them, the more we become responsible in more ways all together. And raising our children "better" only makes us feel better, about them, about ourselves. In the end, we all benefit.


More by :  Siggie Cohen

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