Kids are always watching. As someone once said, “Don’t be afraid that they’re listening. Be afraid that they’re watching.”
This rings true because children are a reflection of us. No matter how great the advice we throw at them, they’re going to showcase our habits and behavior patterns—whether we like them or not. Saying one thing and doing another doesn’t fly when it comes to child rearing, so there are habits we need to be evaluating so we can be just the parents our kids need.
Email, Bill pay, research, and Facebook suck up our attention and focus and drown out our children’s voices. Yeah, bills need to get paid and work has a deadline so it has to happen. And this whirlpool of attention absorption can be a welcome and even necessary alternative to hearing those hungry pleas and complaints. But how often are we plugged into our laptops and phones? How many times are our children repeating themselves before they finally get our attention? And are we pleasant and attentive when they finally snap us back into the present?
When I answer these questions I get a pit of guilt within my stomach. I don’t like being interrupted, and I’m too often distracted by Internet matters that don’t have 1/10th the importance my children do. That’s a kick to the heart when I think about how they’ll be when they’re older. I’m teaching them that plugging into the world of virtual
When I answer these questions I get a pit of guilt within my stomach. I don’t like being interrupted, and I’m too often distracted by Internet matters that don’t have 1/10th the importance my children do. That’s a kick to the heart when I think about how they’ll be when they’re older. I’m teaching them that plugging into the world of virtual communication is more important than interacting with real-life people. I’m showing them that the online world takes priority above all else; even friends and family.
Yelling, snapping, and tuning out are part of the average parent’s communication methods. We may not be willing to admit to it, but until someone can show me a parent that enjoys listening to whining and bickering between siblings, none of us have room to judge. It’s life.
That being said, we have to consider what we’re teaching our children about important communication skills. Are we yelling and jumping to conclusions when we hear siblings fighting? Do we ask our children why they’re whining or refusing to abide by our requests? Are these requests indeed requests, or are they more like dictatorial demands? Kids need discipline and they should have respect for their parents, but we also need to be showing respect in our methods. It’s easy to throw out answers to their problems and to order them around, but they want to feel listened to as much as we do. And no adult I know enjoys being bossed around, so why would kids get anything good from it. Discipline and respect are an important part of every child’s development, but parents need to be listening, understanding, and responding to children if they want them to do it in turn.
Who doesn’t like to unwind after a day’s work (at the office or at home) with a cold one? A good brew or a glass of red wine offer us a little peace of mind and change of pace, and there are some days we really need that. But one has to wonder… What are we teaching the children?
Do we run to the bottle every time we’re stressed? Do we drink everyday as a way to relax? Even if we’re ensuring we stay sober, we may still be making impactful and invalid notions. Every time our children see us drink they’re learning about what’s acceptable. Whether we drink for stress, relaxation, or for coping, our children will be learning that this is a normal relationship with alcohol.
Is this something we want to be “normal” for them? It may seem harmless, but let’s remember hindsight is 20/20 and mistakes may not be apparent until later. I myself grew up with a parent that developed interesting drinking habits. It started out as a night-time indulgence, but as time went on this evolved into a way to start the day as well as end it. A beer got cracked open once the pot of coffee was finished, and a bottle of beer was waiting in the car glovebox to drink on the way home from work. Not everyone goes this far with their drinking, but the behaviors and habits of alcohol dependency comes in all sorts of shades of colors.
When it comes down to it, It doesn’t matter what drinking does or doesn’t give us. What matters is what our children are seeing and the hidden lesson impressed upon them.
We already know how popular alcohol is with stressed parents, but we often turn to things like food, smoking, and television too. A rough day can certainly stand for a nice little endorphin boost from a frosted cupcake or YouTube’s latest and greatest cat compilation, but we need to be conscious of how often we turn to these things. More importantly, we need to be considering if we want our children repeating these same tendencies and whether or not we could model a better way.
An occasional chocolate fix is a far cry from eating doughnuts and ho-ho’s all day, but we still need to ask ourselves; Is there a better way? Yeah, we could kill some time and shift our mood with a little session of Candy Crush. We could also skip off to our bedroom or drive off to the gym to get some space. All those things can and do work wonders to preserving our sanity, but these coping methods also imply that life requires an “escape” We all have our days and need to be able to unwind, but there’s a chance for us to be more present and mindful. We can approach those stressful times by coping—or—we can show our kids that no matter how crazy life gets… it’s always a good idea to get outside and make time for family.
Feeling like the perfect parent seems like a million years away, but it’s the little things we do each day that matter most. Sometimes we’ll have to take a step or two back before we can take one step forward. Other times we’ll need to run in circles until we exhaust ourselves into stopping. That’s okay though. Everyday with our kids is a lesson in being a good parent. It’s all about being better than yesterday, and that’s what makes a perfect parent.
Originally published on NaturalPapa.
*Image of “mother and daughter” via Rolands Lakis/Flickr/CC BY