Do you remember when your kids learned patterns in preschool? “Triangle, square, triangle.” “Square.” What shape comes next in the pattern? Sometimes patterns are obvious and other times, it takes attention and wisdom to see one. After 26 years of parenting, I’ve learned that when I have a misbehaving child, I have to zoom out to see if there is a pattern forming between his or her behavior and my own.
Our children are mirrors. When there’s a pattern in a misbehaving child, I can almost always trace some of it back to me. That hurts to admit, but the only way to make lasting change is to root it out of ourselves, not just our children. So take an honest look at these 3 things moms do that lead 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 we 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 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 change the kind of words I use.
2. Our Responses
Just this afternoon, I had to apologize for an impatient 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 my smoothie over, onto some folders. While spills generally aren’t a trigger for me, this now had become a big interruption and I scolded her 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 contagious—for good or bad. 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. When I restart with a pleasant attitude, I’ve seen it reset the tone in our home.
We reap in our children the behavior we’re allowing in our own lives as moms. An honest check of our behavior will help us root out some of the misbehavior in our children.
What is a behavior you think parents need to check as they raise their children?