5 things your kids are learning from you that you never realized
Parenting is tough. It's a 24-7 job. And everyone's a critic. Strangers share unsolicited advice. And sometimes even those closest to us — loved ones we'd hope would be in our cheering camp — turn on us. But that doesn't give us permission to turn on ourselves. As our kids' #1 teacher, give yourself permission to be gentle on yourself. And in the process you'll put a positive spin on the 5 things your kids are learning from you that you never realized.
How to treat themselves
Our kids are always watching. Watching and learning. Especially how we treat ourselves. Consider how you talk to yourself. Do you ever call yourself stupid? Do you ever say things like “I can't ever do things right!” If you do, consider changing your script. Ask for a “do-over” and correct yourself by saying, “That's not true. I'm not stupid. I just made a mistake.”
Self talk can even extend to our physicality. Do you ever groan when you look at yourself in the mirror? Grab the skin around your stomach area? Or call yourself ugly? Even if you are discouraged by an aging and changed body, you can shift your focus by speaking about your body's ability: My body has sure done a lot over the years.
In addition to how you talk to yourself, do you listen and respond to your body's signals? Do you rest when you're tired? Do you eat when you're hungry?
When you show self-compassion, you teach your child that mistakes are OK, an imperfect body is to be expected and taking care of one's needs is a sign of strength.
How to prioritize people
We all need to stay connected. It keeps us alert. It keeps us in the loop. And it satisfies our curiosity. But when texting, talking on the phone, chatting, messaging, or even video conferencing come before flesh and bone – it's time to reconsider your priorities.
Looking at it another way, how do you hope your child will prioritize his important relationships? Would you want your son to be texting while at dinner with his wife? Would you want your daughter to finish a text before helping her crying child? Or would you want your child to come over for a visit and bring the grandkids? Prioritize your life with real-life people at the top (and that includes scheduling in adult time for you) and technology as a less-important second.
How to deal with anger
Many of us grew up in families where it wasn't OK to feel mad. And yet anger is just a portion of our broad spectrum of emotions. Anger brings something that the other emotions can't. Anger pushes us to look closely at problems. Anger inspires action. And anger can be a giant indicator there is a something wrong that we need to change in our lives.
Now don't get me wrong – reacting on angry impulses by blurting out mean words, throwing things, or any other way isn't OK. But the actual emotion of anger is —well — just an emotion. Evaluate how you handle situations that bring your blood to a boil. And teach by your example that parents can often use a time-out too, or that a walk outside can give clarity and solutions to what triggered your anger. Let your kids know that anger is OK – by being OK with it yourself.
How to involve God in your life
Evaluate your relationship with God. As personal as our relationship with God seems, most children will model their budding faith upon yours. Do you speak of God daily? Do you point out the hand of God in your life? Do you pray when you lose your keys? Or do you pray for strength? It's not only how we involve God but how frequently. Show your kids that God is always there by talking to Him always.
How to solve relationship problems
When most disagreements happen in families, the first part — the disagreement — often happens with an audience. However, things are often resolved behind closed doors when no one is around. Consider solving appropriate family problems in front of the kids. This can teach them that all loving and supportive relationships will have kinks that need to be resolved. It can show your kids how you can respect and validate a person's feelings — and disagree at the same time. Help your kids to know there is no recipe to solving every relationship problem but with patience, love, and dedication to the relationship most problems can be resolved.
Parenting certainly carries its challenges, but knowing you can have a positive influence on your young ones without even trying offers an inspiring and unique opportunity to teach.
Heather Merrill is a single mom, writer and eyewitness to play-date debacles.