Parenting is a hard job, especially when we see some of our own less than stellar characteristics in our children. Maybe it’s impatience or a fussiness about having things just so. It can sometimes feel like our kids are just walking bundles of our worst traits that we’ve passed down to them.
But what’s most hard about parenting is helping your child manage their characteristics through modeling. If you tend to fly off the handle pretty easily but don’t want your child to do this (even if he or she has a tendency to), it can be hard to model taking deep breaths, stepping away from a situation so you don’t lose it, and then explaining to your child why you did this.
Children pay very close attention to what their parents do and say, even though it may seem to their parents that they don’t. They are listening to see if the words that come out of our mouths match the actions that we take. They are looking for our inconsistencies.
“Absolutely nothing sticks like your children seeing you you what you want them to do. Do you want your child to read more? You have to read more. Do you want your child to have diverse friends? You should have a diverse group of friends. You want your child to save money? Sit down with them and explain how you budget while doing the actual family budget. Modeling is, by far, the most powerful tool we have as parents,” author Deedee Cummings says.
Of course, this doesn’t mean parents have to be perfect. We simply aren’t, and it is a futile and frustrating to attempt to be so.
But we can work to improve our own behaviors if for no other reason than to help our children learn to improve their behaviors. Many parents won’t make changes for themselves, but they will absolutely try if it can help their kids.
So maybe think about what one or two traits you see in your child that you know will not serve them well as adults. Are they not willing to admit when they are wrong? Or do they judge others too quickly? Ask yourself whether you have these or similar tendencies. And then write down one or two steps that you will take to model the behavior you would want your child to emulate.
Most importantly, forgive your child when she or he messes up. And forgive yourself when you do.