Kids learn what they live

27 August 2019

Kids learn what they live

  • Positive Parenting
by Michael Grose

Ever opened up your mouth and heard your own parents speak?

I’d frequently speak to my kids when they’d been less than perfect and I could hear my father speaking. I’d use the same words, same tone of voice and same body language as my father. The similarity was a little spooky.

This happens because the ghosts from the past are very strong impacting not just our communication but our parenting as well. Kids copy their parents. Temperament, gender, genetic and birth order factors all play a part in shaping kids. They signify the differences between children’s behaviour, attitudes and interests.

It’s in children’s similarities that the impact of parenting is seen.

Are all your kids tolerant, generous, kind and forgiving, perhaps some less than others? If so, there’s a good chance that you possess those qualities or, at least, one parent displays those qualities.

Children learn what they live

When kids live with gratitude, encouragement and affection on a daily basis they are more likely to adopt those behaviours themselves. In fact, those types of behaviours become part of their values system.

They may shy away from these behaviours in adolescence yet most kids will return to their core values in their twenties and beyond. Most kids find their identity only after they’ve rejected it.

Similarly, when kids live with criticism, mean-spiritedness and intolerance they are more likely to display those attitudes. Teachers and schools can impact children’s attitudes and behaviours but it can be hard to override the values that kids develop at home. Kids are more likely to reflect their parents’ attitudes and behaviours than those of their teachers.

Do you like what you see?

Take a good look at your kids’ attitudes, behaviours and values, particularly how they treat others. If you like what you see then give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve done a good job through both overt teaching and modelling of raising a person in your likeness.

If you’re not happy with what you see – I’m not referring to the out-of-character, poor behaviour that kids at times display due to fatigue, a stage or some other unknown reason (kids will be kids) – but if you cringe when you see some of the attitudes and behaviours that your kids routinely show then some self-reflection may be the order of the day.

That’s nothing necessarily to be ashamed of. Kids get front row seats to the very best and very worst of their parents’ behaviours. We just need to make sure that our best is amplified and our worst is minimised or, at least, not witnessed by our kids.

It helps to sit down with your partner or a trusted friend and review the type of person that’s on display for your kids every now and then. It will be a worthwhile exercise both personally and as a parent. As your kids are a reflection of you, start the reflection process by looking at the behaviours, attitudes and states of mind they have in common. If you’re happy with what you see then you’re okay. If not, then maybe it’s time for some changes.

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Michael Grose

Michael Grose, founder of Parenting Ideas, is one of Australia’s leading parenting educators. He’s the author of 12 books for parents including Spoonfed Generation and the best-selling Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It. His latest release Anxious Kids, was co-authored with Dr Jodi Richardson.