At 14 months old, my daughter Liv has begun to mimic all the day-to-day things I do around the house. I feel like I’m back in high school, where in my adolescent paranoia I felt like everyone was hyper-focused on me and scrutinizing each and every flaw. Only now the huge difference is that it’s true. (And it’s the most important person watching me my daughter!)
James Lehman says that our kids watch us for a living. It starts when they’re little and doesn’t end until they’re out on their own. I think James puts so much emphasis on this fact because being a good role model is so essential to effective parenting. And by the way, being a good role model doesn’t involve being perfect — far from it! As parents we have fears just like our children do. Sometimes we have to do things because we think it’s the best way to keep our children safe and happy, but nobody can make the right decision 100 % of the time. Still, teaching our kids to be responsible in all different areas is best supported when we try to be a living example of what it looks like to be responsible.
Since kids watch us so diligently, it’s easy for them to pick up on any discrepancies between what we ask of them and what we’re actually doing. Defiant kids can make a business of noticing what we do wrong as parents. They will then use it as ammunition when confronted about their own behavior. You may find that even when you haven’t behaved inappropriately, your child’s perception of the situation is the opposite. They may highlight your behavior in order to put you off balance and take control of the situation. Whether or not your child truly believes you’ve done something wrong, the effective way to respond to that is to refocus the conversation on their behavior. This may be a child who says, You’re yelling, or You lied to me! when they get in trouble. If that’s not the case, kindly disagree, state the facts and then shift the conversation to the responsibility issue your child needs to address. If his claims are legitimate, then reassure your child that you’re working hard on the matter, and refocus on him. By briefly taking ownership of your behavior, you’ll be showing your child that accountability applies to everyone in the home.
I know my daughter Liv will eventually pass through this phase of actively practicing what she sees me doing. I’m sure she will continue to watch me even when I don’t notice. My hope is that I can periodically take a step back and ask myself if I have been willing to do what I ask of her. I agree with James that being able to answer yes to that question builds a solid foundation for all learning and teaching to take place in any parent-child relationship.
Is there anything you’ve been surprised to hear your child say they’ve noticed you doing? And have they copied behaviors of yours that you’re not so fond of?