What exactly is your child learning from you?

I'm not an expert, but I do like to observe very closely. At the moment, what fascinates me is how my 19 month-old toddler is picking up new skills, words and behavioural traits every day. I've already posted about how we should always be on the watch for non-verbal cues in our children. But what about the cues we are sending them, mostly subconsciously?

Although the common belief is that children inherit personality traits and behaviour from their parents, I think this has mostly to do with what they observe in them. I agree that each child has a personality that is unique and, possibly, imprinted in his/her DNA. On the other hand, parents are largely responsible for how they turn up. Not a big deal, I know. But the strange thing is when parents appear surprised or upset at their child's behaviour without realizing that they may have encouraged or even 'taught' it.

Lookie! - communication is important

Coming back to the cues that we may be giving our children. Here are a few that come to mind, with real-life examples from my own observations:

Behavioural cues: More than listening to what you teach them, kids will observe you for what you actually do. Do you tell someone on the phone that you're someplace that you're actually not? Then, you just demonstrated lying (and that it's okay). This applies to everything that we do as parents - eat, sleep, play and generally, spend our time. For instance, I'm very particular about keeping the floor clean ever since Little Dude started walking. I try to keep it spic and span, though it's not like I follow him around with a mop! What I observed him doing recently is trying to clean messes up himself! Like any other kid, he likes making messes and I have never reprimanded him for it. But he always tries to clean up after he's made one! I hope this is a good thing, because I would feel guilty if he thinks it's 'wrong' to be messy at all.

Social cues: When you talk to other people, your kids are probably noting every handshake, hug or frown. This may have an impact on how they approach strangers and how they make friends. In the world as we know today, it is probably best to teach them to approach strangers with caution. But wait a minute, isn't that what I think? Could it make a difference to how my son approaches all people, including other kids? This is the tricky part. I am not a very outgoing person, but I like to approach most people with a smile, especially since I became a mother. This is because I want Little Dude to know that it's okay to talk to other people. So far, he just hides behind me but I have noticed that he is more open to adults who have kids around them.

Independence - do you encourage it?

Vocal cues: It's not just the words they pick up, but how you say them. For instance, saying words like 'no'
or 'don't' too often and in a loud voice, will definitely lead to negative association. I try to incorporate them in my conversations with Little Dude in a neutral tone. There is a school of thought that these words should be avoided completely, but my opinion is that they can't. They are part of our conversations everywhere and we should use them like every other word. As I said, it's the manner of speaking that is more important.

Emotional cues: It is very easy to transmit fear and anxiety to a child, and I know many parents are aware of this. But we need to remember that this can also apply to pessimism, over-competitiveness or even laziness. If you haven't already, figure out what you can do to improve your approach to life so that your children follow suit. Prejudice is also something we need to look out for in ourselves, and they are always hard to identify. I try to avoid being over-protective though that's the material mothers are made of! I try to stop myself from telling Little Dude to stop doing something when he wants to explore and learn. Maybe I should just hang around to catch him if he falls.

As parents, we can't stop being who we are, and sometimes, that's what makes us special. It's such a lovely feeling to see your child do something funny that you didn't know you did yourself! That way, a small gesture may get passed on from generation to generation and become a trademark. In the same way, cultural cues are important because they identify our traditions and our beliefs.

What are the traits you hope your kids pick up from you and/or your spouse (and those that you don't)?

(Pics: Look There! by Petr Kratochvil ; Young Artist by Peter Griffin)
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Laura Huggins said...

I love this post. Has given me a lot to think about. I think your posts covers all the things I would want to for my son.

The one thing I would not like my son to pick up on is my anxiety which is created by my Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Thank you for linking up with The Weekend Blog Hop

Hope to see you again next weekend

Laura x x x

TK said...

Thank you for stopping by, I'll certainly join next week!

Heather said...

Its definitely the hardest in stressful situations because that is usually when you show your true colors and the times when kids are paying attention the most. Both my four year old and 18 month old seem to be learning behavior stuff every day. They are oh so impressionable.

Stopping by from the weekend showcase!

TK said...

Hi Heather, thanks for stopping by! You're right, one has to be on their guard at all times!

Being Mummy said...

I love this post. It is amazing what they take in from just watching you. Definitely have to be a bit more conscious about everything you're doing once you become a parent, even tones of voice.

Actually Mummy... said...

It's a really thought-provoking post. I'm trying to be more disciplined about work and computer time so they grow up with a healthy attitude to work:life balance

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