“As much as they are sponges, they are mirrors!”
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That’s how psychologist Karen Young of Hey Sigmund describes our children’s observations of our actions.
Her comments came in response to an article in INC magazine that listed the must-dos for parents who want to raise well-adjusted kids.
According to family therapist Susan Stiffelman, whose research informed this list, parents need to understand that we are “raising adults, not children.”
“Even when we might be questioning how we’re doing, our children will see a hero. They want to be just like us, and there will be plenty of times they try to learn about the world by experimenting with what it is like being in the world as us.”
With that in mind, here are six key lessons that we parents should ‘show’ our kids.
1. That everyone matters
Karen says that as important as it is to show our kids how to treat the people we love in our lives, it’s just as important to demonstrate respect to strangers.
“Watching the way we relate to the waiter, the person who gives way to us in traffic, and the person who doesn’t, the people with influence, and the people with none, will help them to realise the power of their own humanity,” says Karen.
2. How to act in relationships
“Be alive to the fact they are watching and setting the boundaries for their own future relationships,” says Karen.
Are you warm, stingy, clingy, dominating, generous, loving, kind? Your kids will be paying attention to how you interact with the important people in your life.
3. How to treat people who are different
“Sometimes it’s easier to judge than be open to someone who is different,” says Karen.
“But these are the times we can show our kids that there is not just one way to live life, there are lots of different ways to be – not better, not worse, just different.”
4. How to keep on learning
Stiffelman says it’s important that our kids see us driven to keep learning – that our curiosity doesn’t diminish and that we keep trying to get better at things.
Reading is a great way to role model this at a simple level: “Kids who see parents read, tend to read more,” she says.
5. How to face rejection head on
Oh, this is such a tough one! Having to watch anyone you love deal with rejection is tough. But as Karen says, it’s really important for kids to see.
“Tell them about the times you didn’t get what you wanted … It will preserve the beautiful vulnerability that will make them great at taking chances,” says Karen.
6. If your glass is full or empty …
“They’ll be hearing your interpretations of disappointments, the motives of people and they will watch your reactions after a fall,” says Karen.
Knowing this could influence the words you use to describe what is going on in your life and the people you interact with. Nobody has good days all the time, and we need to be able to show our kids how to get on with things regardless, with a positive frame of mind.