My daughters had a hard time using the word “please.” I noticed this several years ago, when I was constantly correcting their demands, making them insert the word before I would honor their request. They always said, “Thank you,” just not the “p” word. I remember the moment when I discovered why this phenomenon was occurring and needless to say, it was a head-slapping revelation. I asked my child (about age 4) to do something and she looked at me while asking, “please?” She was correcting my rudeness.
So, I listened in on all my conversations that day. Do I ever use the word? I frequently use the words “thanks” and, “I’m sorry.” I say “you’re welcome” and I always say “I love you” at least twice a day per family member. Somehow I had gotten into the habit of issuing orders without the basic nicety of “please.” It didn’t matter that I was telling my children to always use this word, they were simply mirroring my own behavior. It was so basic. So many trite sayings have formed out of this one constant of human development. Monkey see, monkey do. Do as I say, not as I do. But there it was staring me in the face without me really seeing it.
There are many times in raising children when you need to stop, examine your world through your child’s eyes and ears, and really think about what they are learning from you. Are you telling them not to hit, but spanking them as a form of punishment? Do you raise your voice when angry, but reprimand your child for yelling? (This is one of my uglier problems that I’m still working on.) Do you wish they would interact more with other children, but spend all your time with them instead of making strong connections with other adults?
It’s not easy realizing that your children are so much like you, yet so different. You assume they will only pick up your strengths and excel at the areas you have mastered. In addition to picking up your bad habits, magnifying them and mirroring them back to you like a carnival fun house; children also pick up on your energy. They know when you are tense, sad, angry with your spouse or worried about life. They know instantly when you don’t like someone. Unfortunately, children assume that they are the cause of your negative emotions, not an outside influence. My oldest daughter has the eerie habit of plucking thoughts right out of my head. It happens so often now that I’ve come to accept her ability as yet another reason to focus my thoughts and energy into positive messages.
MOM DARE: Spend this week listening in on your conversations, really hearing yourself the way your child does. Are they imitating you? Can you see how one of their troublesome behaviors could be related to something you have inadvertently taught them? Are you stressed about something and your child is picking up on your anxiety? Try spending a little more time this week reassuring your children that they are doing a good job, that you love them, and that life is truly beautiful. Please.
Sharron Wright is the work-at-home mother of three girls, ages 2, 5 and 8. Her mission is to help other new parents feel empowered and to instill in them the confidence to care for their babies in a loving, positive way that respects the uniqueness of all children. She blogs at http://momswithgrace.wordpress.com and helps new moms at www.babylovecarebook.com