It's been said so many times before: kids will copy more of what they see you do than what you tell them to do. "Walk the talk" is what parents are often told.
There is no way out of this: we are our children's first and best teachers. From the moment you welcomed a child into this world, he will spend most of his time especially the first five formative years with you. You may not always be aware of it, but your child already looks up to you, trusts you, and is inspired by you from the moment you first held him, nourished him, and made him feel loved and secure.
"So much of what we do as parents creates our children's understanding of normal," marriage and family therapist Susan Stiffelman tells Parenting. Stiffelman is the author of books like Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids and Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected.
Being a role model is a tall order — no one's perfect! But parents have no choice, so we try to do our best to be mindful of and be a good example. Here are a few things you should let your child learn by Seeing You Do It, Too.
1. Sometimes, your child seeing you get upset can be a good thing.
One of the things toddlers need to learn as a little human is to manage his emotions. Seeing you cry or get upset affirms to your tots that it's normal not to feel good all the time. How you handle being sad or angry is going to be your child's peg when he feels sad or angry. It's easier for your child to see how you do it than merely telling him to calm down when you're not. (Check out a few copings strategies here.)
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2. Your child needs learn from you how to struggle and get up.
You are not doing right by your child if you protect him from every failure and disappointment. And kids need to see you solve problems and more importantly, they need to see you pick yourself up after experiencing a setback. It's a lesson on grit, resourcefulness, perseverance, and resilience, which your kids will need when they're out in the world and you are not there to pave an easy path for them. You cannot protect them forever.
3. Express love to your partner.
Education consultant Chary Mercado explains it in an article in Smart Parenting: "Your sons will learn how to be attentive gentlemen to the ladies they set their hearts on; and your daughters will learn that they should expect nothing less from their suitors. They will also learn how to show appreciation for people they love."
Besides, expressions of love is beneficial to your relationship with your significant other since there is you two first before the kids arrive. Go ahead and show affection — hold hands, hug, or kiss — in from of your kids. Let them even see you give flowers or lover notes to each other.
4. Show respect, practice kindness and compassion to others.
"The ability to have respect, kindness and compassion for ourselves and others is not something we are born with, it is a skill we learn," writes Stacy Kaiser, licensed psychotherapist, relationship experts and author of How to Be a Grown Up: The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know, in Live Happy. "The more we practice them, the more likely we are to use them in our daily lives," she added.
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How parents value respect, kindness, and compassion shows in their actions. It can manifest in many ways such as how you use words and actions with family, friends, and more importantly with strangers. Volunteering with your kids in tow drives home the point about giving back in your community. It's even as simple as following simple rules such as falling in line and waiting for your turn.
5. Value yourself.
As much as you show your kids how you treat other people, it has the same effect on your kids when they see you respect and value yourself and your health. Your kids will take their cue when you perceive your body, how you take care of it by eating right, exercising, and making ample rest. They will be curious and eager to learn if you also continue to learn and better yourself beyond the required academic years. If you take a pause to evaluate and self-reflect, your kids will follow your lead as well.