As parents, there are very few aspects of our lives that our children don't witness. They are there when we wake, go to work, socialize with our friends, make dinner, interact with our significant others, and all the other things that we do as we juggle the many demands of life. They watch as we laugh and cry at life's many curve balls, as we grow and excel in our professions, and as we live and work with a passion that naturally occurs when we spend our time doing what matters most to us. What is interesting about their stare upon our lives is that, while they are watching, they are also constructing; taking in all the characteristics of what their lives should be when they are old enough to create their very own. As I think about my three kids, and what they observe in my life, I know that I have to do my best to be the kind of person that I want my children to be, we all do; because our children are watching.
Examples of areas where we need to be especially mindful of our behaviors include:
They watch how we treat people -- how we communicate -- and how we react to difficult situations. Our children learn how to interact with others by watching what we do when we speak to our friends, family, and associates. The way we communicate, and what they observe, is what shapes their communication styles. Being a good listener, knowing what's appropriate to say in various situations, and how to treat people with respect and kindness are all traits they learn from watching us communicate with those around us. We have a responsibility to show them the right way to talk to people and the proper way to react to those who may be less than kind to us.
You know all those projects we tend to start and never finish? Yeah, they notice that too. Our ability to press on, stay focused, and work towards achievement of our goals sets a shining example for our children to do the same. If we constantly start something, do it for a while, then drop it for the next big thing without seeing it through, then there is a high likelihood that they will emulate the same behavior. If we want them to make commitments and see things through to the end, we need to show them how it's done.
Anger, sadness, happiness, disappointment, despair, joy -- all the emotions we display in front of our children are the emotions they learn to exhibit themselves. The way we react to our lives, i.e. financial difficulties, failures, accomplishments, changes, will show our children how they should react to theirs. If we often get frustrated and act out when things are not going our way or get angry and have outbursts when something upsets us, then they are likely to do the same when their emotions rear up. It is our job to show them the proper way to work through those emotions, by our example.
We define who we are by our thoughts. Our thoughts define our actions. Our actions are what create our lives and form our habits. If we care about health and fitness, that is what we will think about, and we will then eat certain foods or exercise regularly to maintain our fitness goals. Our children notice these defining habits and they are likely to want to do the same. If we are workaholics that keep 24/7 hours they will notice that too. We owe it to our children to pay attention to our actions and make sure we are defining a life that we want them to strive for.
The core values and ethics that we want our children to have are best learned when they watch us acting them out. Imagine yourself as the star in your child's favorite movie; and them watching intently, taking mental notes, and recalling your scenes as they grow into and learn how to be their own person. At some point in their lives, what they have witnessed us doing is likely to become the path they will take. It is critical to choose the life you would want your child to replicate; because our children are watching.