4 Things Kids Teach Us
I was walking to the bus stop recently and a young neighborhood kid ran past me gleefully tattling on her older brother,“Did you hear? Tommy said a bad word!!!”
Her mother, trailing behind, rolled her eyes and said, “Nothing gets by kids.”
Fortunately, that's true.
Kids pick up on most everything and they can be extraordinary teachers, if you listen. Whether you're a parent, uncle, aunt, babysitter, or neighbor, if you spend any time talking to a child, you'll learn something new.
On the mundane end of the spectrum, you can learn new lyrics for songs ("Katy Perry's on the plane, she's on the plane." ), discover what Zumba's all about, and recall important facts from Lincoln's life. However, the potential for learning is much broader, if we decide to see our kids as mirrors and ask ourselves how they are reflecting back bits and pieces of who we are. Naturally, what we see in the mirror isn't always pretty, but mirrors don't lie, so it's best to pay attention to the message.
There are four common things I pick up from my "mirrors." See if any of these apply to you.
Kids reveal our motives
"Why?" "Why NOT?"
These are two of the most consistent questions from a child’s mouth. When you have to explain yourself consistently, you start to notice when your reasoning is weak. We tell our kids they can always ask "why" (AFTER they've complied with the request!) so they can understand why we do what we do. This habit makes me realize when I'm saying "no" for the sake of me rather than for a solid reason. Sometimes I find this incredibly annoying. I don't like being called out, but growth is painful sometimes!
When do you find your children's questions toughest to take? Are they calling out your motives?
Kids see through our hypocrisy
What you say is less important than what you do. If you tell kids to value face-to-face relationships over phone connections, they will notice if you're too into your iPhone. When you admonish them to put things back in their "home" and you leave your room a disaster, they understand the "rule" only applies to them. If you encourage patience, then use an impatient tone, well, they see through your duplicity. Remember, children are copycats, and they will demonstrate what they've seen.
What does your child's behavior reveal of your own?
Kids spot falsity/lies
The older your children are, the more sophisticated their lie detectors. They will spot false promises in real time and let you know what you said you'd do and when. If there's any hedge in your "yes" or any softness to your "no," then it won't be long before you experience push-back. Kids want to feel secure; they want to trust you. If you damage this connection, it's extremely hard to restore. The flip side of this coin is that kids will read how you cope with dishonesty based on whether or not you discipline their lies. When you tolerate their falsehoods, you're communicating a willingness to live with questionable integrity.
How do you handle lying in your home? Do you consistently purge it in yourself and in your kids?
Kids replicate your behavior
Do you hold grudges or let things go easily? Do you laugh easily or take a more serious approach? Are you argumentative or easy-going? Don't be surprised if how you answer these questions is replicated with your kids. Naturally, your kids won't be exactly like you, but they are MORE like you than you know. I've written before about my daughter's negotiating skills (here), and my son's building skills are exactly like his architect-schooled dad! From mannerisms to biases to taste for food, your kids are showing you parts of yourself that may need attention. It's worth asking yourself the tough question:
How do I contribute to my child's behavior?
When we get ready in the morning, we don't ignore the mirror. We look into it and do whatever it takes to make ourselves presentable for the day. In a similar way, when we take a close look at our children, we can gain some valuable insights into our own issues. Kids can help us be better people, if we pay attention and let them.