Children are very intuitive. They often pick up on the smallest of details, details we give away in our body language, our facial expressions, and even the tone of our voice. They pick up on a lot more than just the words we speak. A parent is the most important person in any young child’s life. Your children look up to you and consider all your behaviour, good or bad, to be acceptable. Our role as parents is to take a good look at ourselves through the eyes of our children and take a moment to consider what they see.
Our Children Hold a Mirror
So many times I have looked at my 3 yr old daughter, Dana, playing, and I am stopped dead in my tracks and have to do a double take. I see a mini version of myself. It is so eye opening and can be a very rewarding experience. I see her hugging her favourite toy saying “I will never leave you, you are very special to me” and my heart just melts. It is so inspiring to see such loving, caring qualities in my daughter, qualities she has picked up from me.
But it is not always good. I have also seen some less than ideal traits in her behaviour, things that are very familiar, and very close to home. There have been times when I am not happy with what she is doing and I get a chill when I realise that it is a tiny version of my own behaviour that I am seeing.
There are times when I am shocked to see the detail in which she re-enacts my behaviour, even my words, and the volume and tone of my voice. The other day Dana raised her voice at her toys, she said “I’m sick and tired of this behaviour” she went and put her doll on the step and told her “now, you wait there until I come and fetch you”.
Role of a Parent- To Look Inwards
As a parent we often see our children acting out in many different ways. Most times if we take a second to look a little closer, we see where they might have picked up that behaviour. I see so many examples of this in my interaction with young families. I know an example of a mom, Cassy, who whenever she gets frustrated, her natural instincts in to shout. Now her 3 year old daughter, Lexie, does the same thing. As soon as a situation becomes a little testing, or causes any frustration, Lexie would shout and scream. This would make Cassy very angry, and before you knew it, the 2 of them were in a shouting match.
It was only through reflecting on her own behaviour that Cassy could finally identify with and understand her daughter’s behaviour. All Lexie was doing was taking her behaviour guidelines from her mother. Once Cassy realised this and handled her own frustration better, Lexie soon followed her mother’s role.
The Role of the Parent – Understand High Expectations
As a parent you realise how important your behaviour is to your children and how much they are learning about life through your reactions to it. This can be a very daunting realisation. But it does not have to be. One of the most important roles as a parent is to be honest with our children. We need to help them see that we, as parents, are only human, that we make mistakes, we are not perfect and that we too have fears and obstacles in our lives. The lessons we teach our children on how to deal with these situations, how to work passed mistakes, how to overcome fears and how to work through obstacles are far more important than the illusion of perfection. The best way to teach these lessons is by example and by being a positive parent. By being a well rounded role model.
Understanding the Role of the Parent Role Model
Being a good role model for our children does not mean we have to be perfect, far from it. We need to be honest and we need to effectively communicate with our children. As parents we need to look inwards at our own behaviour, and how we handle situations, and the messages we are giving to our children through our words, as well as more subtle cues like our body language and our tone of voice. By doing this one realises that the most important role as a parent is to lead by example. Teach your children how to handle difficult situations, how to be honest, how to be kind, how to be brave, how to say sorry, how to communicate effectively and how to love. Be the kind of person you want your child to aspire to be.