The children are watching…
Children are told all the best things we want them to do, how we want them to behave. We make sure to tell them the kind of person we want them to grow up to become. And, we all want them to grow up to become the kind of people who will change the world for the better.
But, here's the thing. The children are watching.
There's a real disconnect between what our children are being told is expected of them and what the adults who are telling them actually do. The thing is, kids don't learn because we tell them. They learn by watching and imitating. And they're watching us. If we are not the kind of people we want them to be, they will be the kind of people we show them. It's a fact, kids grow up to become the kind of people they associate with. Our grandparents said it ad nauseum, "Lay down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas." Adults are the dogs and our kids are becoming flea infested with our behaviors, our examples of how to be grownups. Because, the children are watching.
And, it's not just enough to be the best example you personally can be. Parents are not the only examples our kids look to. We have to surround ourselves with the kind of people we want our kids to become. We have to choose whom we allow into our own lives because we are also choosing whom we bring into our children's lives. Parents, how many shows do we love, regardless of the fact that the characters portrayed would never be welcomed into our real lives. Our entertainments bring many kinds of people into our lives and our children will take them in far more deeply than we. Two Broke Girls may be entertaining to us adults, but let's get real, if our daughters behaved as they do, we'd be appalled. You remember Seinfeld? It was a funny show. But they were not nice people. Two and A Half Men? It seems some of this country's favorite entertainments are the kind of people we'd be disappointed and even shocked to see our children become. We don't think that our kids are learning from our entertainments. We don't seem to realize the children are watching.
You look around and say to yourself, that's not me. I'm not setting a bad example. But, when you find that $10 dollar bill on the ground, what effort do you make to see it returned to the person who lost it? When you see injustice or crime, do you just look the other way, not wanting to get involved? When you find that cute little bauble with no one around to see, to lay claim to it, what do you do with? Do you pick it and keep it for yourself? Or, do you leave it where it lays, for the next person to pocket? How many pick it up and put it in the lost and found or ask who it belongs to? When you play a game, what kind of victor are you? How do you handle a loss? What do you do or say when you see cheating or injustice in the game? Are you the one cheating or bullying in the game. Into how much of your real life do those behaviors show through. What are the lessons your children are learning from watching you. Because, the children are watching.
Everyone says it: Kids change everything. But no one wants to change anything for the kids. We, as parents, as child mentors, must elevate ourselves. We cannot, even in secret, be anything less than the ideals we want them to embrace. Secrets are always found out. We have to be the kind of people we want our kids to be. Because the children are always watching.
A companion essay, posted on WritersCafe.org by Kara Lynn Goode is a must read for all parents making those most difficult of relationship decisions. "Safe from harm"