February 26, 2010

Behaviors your Kids Will Imitate

Kids learn by example.  It's a simple fact of life.  When they see you writing thank you notes for gifts, driving defensively, keeping your cool under pressure, or problem solving calmly with your spouse, they learn.  They can see a positive way to deal with the situation in question; and when they see others behaving poorly, they'll think, "I know how to do that better."

Unfortunately, no parent is perfect.  You're not going to do everything just right, all the time, and that means that sometimes your kids are going to see a bad example in your behavior.  What can you do?  First and foremost: talk.  If you've realized you've made a mistake, talk to your kids and let them know that you did something wrong.  This turns a bad example into a good one: your child sees you analyze your own behavior and take steps to fix what's wrong.

Here are some behaviors to watch out for in yourself or your kids.  If your kids have any of these behaviors, ask yourself where they might have learned them.  And if it's you...take responsibility!

  • Yelling.  If you yell when you get angry, your kids will learn that that's how they can vent frustration.  Occasionally raising your voice when things get hectic isn't horrible, but if this is your go-to discipline technique, beware!  Your house may only get louder as the kids get older.  
  • Cursing.  This one's pretty self explanatory.  If your kids hear you using curse words out of anger or frustration, they will too.  If they hear them used in a comic way, they'll imitate.  Kids will learn, and probably use, curse words eventually from other kids at school or the media.  But if you hear your little one using words that make you blush, check yourself first.  
  • Passing the buck.  It's all your boss's fault.  That co-worker was at it again.  If your client would have gotten you the information you needed on time, you could have finished your report.  Maybe your co-worker really is a pill, but if your child only ever hears you say that it was someone else's fault, they will learn to do the same.  Every now and then, they need to see you square your shoulders, take a breath and say, "I messed up.  What can I do to make it right?"  
  • Cheating.  Do you gloat loudly when you "slide in" that coupon that was past its expiration date?  Do you run every last yellow-turning-red light you come across?  Do you copy the neighbor's garden down to the last petunia because it "looks so nice?"  Do you pick up after your dog every time he does his business, or do you leave it if you think no one's looking?  Do your kids cheat?  If you show them that cheating in little ways is ok, they'll see no reason to pass it up on the important things, either.  

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