I sat at the table and tapped my fingers. I heard more tapping and realized the 3-year-old was also tapping their fingers.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Tapping my fingers.”
“Please stop,” mimicked the 3-year-old.
I pursed my lips and sighed, watching the same actions mirrored back. This time with an added grin.
Children observe us at all times. They take in every small detail and store it away for later. They imitate our actions, whether good or bad and force us to reflect on how we should conduct ourselves.
What Behaviors Do We Need to Display for Our Children?
Your health is your wealth is a statement that floats around frequently. Healthy people have improved brain power, better self-esteem, and are more productive with daily activities. Coto et al. (2019) discovered that parents who ate the recommended portions of fruits and vegetables and maintained a healthy weight increased the chances that their children were also healthy weights. This study is a perfect example of how our daily habits can affect our children in multiple ways that have long-term effects.
As children navigate new emotions, they display feelings, such as anger and frustration, through tantrums or even physically attacking others (biting, hitting). As parents, we should teach children that there is nothing wrong with a wide variety of emotions, but how we express them is most important.
We do this by modeling how to respond when we have strong emotions. Example: You are angry your child colored on the newly painted wall. Say, “I am angry you colored on the wall. I will count to ten and take deep breaths. Then we will talk.” This sequence teaches the child to express their emotions, calm down, and respond appropriately in a stressful situation. This sequence also validates their emotions and helps them to feel seen. The Child Mind Institute has an excellent article that gives further advice.
Respect for Others
Respect is not blind obedience. We first teach respect by respecting our children. They will in turn model this respect to us and other people. If we do not want them to shout at others, we must model how to use appropriate volume, even when angry or frustrated. If we want them to be better listeners, we listen to them to understand their point of view.
Remember, children will do what they see, despite what we tell them to do. Every day won’t be the same, and some days we will struggle with being good role models. In those moments of struggle, reflect on Philippians 3:14 NIV “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Let the scripture resonate with you as you move to become the best version of yourself for your children.
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Coto, J., Pulgaron, E. R., Graziano, P. A., Bagner, D. M., Villa, M., Malik, J. A., & Delamater, A. M. (2019). Parents as role models: Associations between parent and young children’s weight, dietary intake, and physical activity in a minority sample. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 23, 943-950.