Our 2-year-old daughter watched intently as her older sister frowned at the peas on her dinner plate, pushing them around until they fell off the edge while mumbling, “I don’t like peas.” From her highchair, the 2-year-old looked down at her own pile of peas and imitated her sister—swoosh! With one big swipe, they went flying off the tray. “No peas!” she yelled.
The pea-flinging incident was pretty funny at the time. But dealing with bad influences on kids stops being funny as kids get older, and their imitations shift from peas to words, attitudes, and behaviors. It can feel like an uphill battle when they care so much about the opinions of siblings, friends, or YouTube personalities. But it is possible to help them make their own decisions. It really comes down to doing two things.
When your kid comes home from school and talks with a little more sass, tries out a curse word, or throws a tantrum like his or her cousin, your first instinct might be to shield your child from the negative influence—change classes, don’t ride the bus, don’t date him (good luck with that one), or don’t listen to that music.
And while you can build boundaries, you can’t shield your child from all negative influences, especially when they’re other family members. Dealing with bad influences on kids is part of a mom’s job, so when you see it happening, you can do two things: remind and motivate.
Reminding your children of the character you’ve instilled in them helps them be more aware of and intentional with their words and actions. Gentle (but firm) reminders might sound like this:
- “That doesn’t sound like you.”
- “We don’t burp at the table. Thank you.”
- “That might be OK at Brady’s house, but it isn’t OK in our house.” Use iMOM’s In Our House printable to set a standard in your home.
- “How would you feel if someone treated you that way or said that to you?”
Motivate your kids with words that empower them to be themselves, not imitators of someone else. Feed them the positive, even through the teenage years, when you think they aren’t listening! As a wise friend once told me, “They can’t unhear it.” Motivators might sound like this:
- “You get to decide how you want to act and what kind of person you want to be. And I believe you are… (you fill in the rest—honest, trustworthy, kind, etc).”
- “Listen to that small voice inside you; it will give you a nudge in the right direction if you listen.”
- “A good friend will like you for just being you.”
- “I saw (behavior). If it happens again, this will be the consequence.” Then be sure to follow through.
Motivate your kids with words that empower them to be themselves, not imitators of someone else.
How do you help your child to make wise choices in the midst of bad influences?