Every now and again, I realize a pattern in my children’s behavior has reached a level where it needs serious intervention. After 26 years of parenting (with two kids still in the house), I’ve learned I can’t only address it in my children. Because they may have picked up some of my own misbehavior.
Our children are mirrors. When there’s a pattern of a misbehaving child, I can almost always trace some of it back to me. That hurts to realize and admit, but the only way to make lasting change is to root it out of our home, not just our children. So, let’s roll up our collective sleeves and look at 3 things moms do that leads kids to misbehave.
1. Our Speech
Kids can pick up eye-rolling and sarcasm from their besties, but they can also pick them up at home. Sarcasm is so pervasive in our culture—in media and in conversation—that moms might not even realize we’re doing it. Then there are times we mean to be sarcastic. While it might feel good to dish out a cutting remark, it stings with disrespect when parroted back.
Accusations and criticism can also be problems. Both can be masked as a correction, but if we’ll correct in love, we’re less likely to accuse or criticize. Sometimes even stopping what I’m doing to look into my child’s eyes can redirect the kind of words I use.
2. Our Responses
Just this afternoon, I had to apologize for an inpatient response. I was writing in my room when my daughter came in to show me something in her book. She began to fidget, lost her balance, and knocked over my smoothie onto some folders. While spills generally aren’t a trigger for me, this had now become a big interruption and I scolded for behavior that was really an accident. When I apologized later, I thought back to another situation.
Years earlier, I was volunteering in my son’s kindergarten classroom when a classmate spilled her crayons on the floor. Two kids stopped their work, got down, and helped her pick them up without the teacher saying a word. Five minutes later, she spilled them again and they helped her again without a word. When I commented later to the teacher, she said she’d purposely modeled this the first week of school. Her good example paid off all year.
3. Our Attitude
Our children’s attitudes are so often caught, not taught. When moms have a pleasant attitude in the home, we’re modeling that for our children. When we’re grateful and content with what we have, we’re modeling that for our kids. When we’re patient with a slow cashier or kind to the difficult server, our kids are watching.
Our attitudes as moms are highly contagious – for good or for ill. If I see consistent irritability in my children, I have to take a long look to see whether I’ve been peevish as well. The good news is that means an attitude correction is highly effective. There have been mornings I’ve stopped and admitted my crankiness and, starting again with a pleasant attitude, have been able to reset the tone in our home.
We reap in our own children the behavior we’re allowing in our own life as moms. An honest check of our behavior will help us root out some of the misbehavior in our children.
Tell us! What is a behavior you think parents need to check as they raise their children?