“Open the damn door!” yelled my son, banging on his sister’s door. Later, while they were playing, he yelled “This is bullshit!” My son is only two years old. My husband laughs when our son talks this way. No matter how many times I tell him it’s not okay to talk like that, his father’s laughter gives his approval. This is just one of the many ways that we as parents sometimes fail to realize the impact their actions have on their children.
I gave birth to my oldest daughter, Jordyn, when I was twenty years old. Before then, I had spent most of my short life helping to care for other people’s children. So by the time I had my own child, I felt I had a pretty good grasp of things. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There’s a huge difference between taking care of the daily needs of a child when their parents come to pick them up at the end of the day, and caring for a child who never leaves. Changing diapers, feeding, and bathing a child are the easy parts. What nobody ever prepares you for is the fact that these children are little people, and they copy everything! Both good and bad, and it doesn’t matter if you tell them not to do something. If they see you do it, consider yourself doomed.
Jordyn has taught me this lesson many times over the years. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard or seen her do something that perfectly mirrors a trait I don’t like about myself. Occasionally, her habits have even shown me ones about myself that I hadn’t been aware of. Jordyn feels that she always has to have the last word, which is something my husband constantly accuses me of. She and I have had many verbal tug of wars over this when she is being reprimanded for something. To my husband I say “I’m an adult, it’s different.” With Jordyn I say, “Stop trying to have the last word and go to your room.” Not exactly fair is it? Yet this bad habit that gets her in trouble is evidently something she has learned from me.
Another thing Jordyn has taught me is to watch my temper. The attitude she uses with her younger brother when he has done something to upset her, and when she thinks I’m not listening, is at times rather disturbing. I’ve recognized things I’ve said to her, that may not have seemed so harsh when I first said them, but hearing them come out of my child’s mouth makes me feel rather ashamed of myself. Now when I’m very upset I try to tell her “Mommy needs a time out right now.” That way I can show her that sometimes it’s best to take some time to think about things when you’re upset and calm down, instead of saying something hurtful. I’ve seen her send herself to her room when her brother is getting to her, then a little while later goes back to talk to him.
Which brings me to my second child, Hunter. Out of three children he is our only boy, which makes him Daddy’s Buddy. This has some good points. Many days I’ve come home from school to find father and son busily building a rabbit cage or fixing something around the house. We’ve convinced Hunter to eat his dinner so he can get big like Daddy, or go potty instead of using diapers so he can be a big boy like Daddy. But him being Daddy’s Buddy also has some pitfalls. He hears his Dad use bad words, so he does too, he knows that all he has to do is cry, and Daddy will give him his way, even if Mommy already said no. I’ve tried telling my husband that Hunter is going to get in trouble when he starts Head Start soon if he continues to say bad words and if he doesn’t listen to what his teachers tell him. My husband’s response is “So what. He’s my son and I’ll do what I want.” Much like when I let my temper get the best of me with Jordyn or Hunter, I feel that my husband’s actions and attitude about Hunter’s behavior are harmful.
Finally, there’s Holly, our eleven month old. Even with her being so young I can see little signs of how our actions affect her. She’s not big enough to say bad words like Hunter or even try to have the last word like Jordyn, but there are little things. If I’m having a stressful day then she follows me around the house fussing and saying “Mama, Mama” when I’m trying to do things, but if I take a deep breath and relax she goes back to smiling and happily playing with her toys.
Although our actions can affect our children is numerous bad ways; there are also so many good things we can show them. My husband and I have always given our children lots of hugs and kisses and told them we love them, therefore all three of our children are extremely affectionate. Practically since the day each of them were born, my husband has taken the kids outside to look at trees and flowers and tell them about all the different animals, so they all have a great love of being outdoors. Jordyn and Hunter are each pretty knowledgeable about animals also. My favorite past time is reading. They’ve always seen me with a book close by so it’s no surprise to see either of the older two stretched out on their beds with books. Or to hear Jordyn in the other room using her first grade reading skills, to read a book to her brother and sister.
So whatever you’re doing, no matter how big or small the action may seem, remember that there are little people watching and learning from everything you do.