Parents know that our kids watch our every move.
For better or for worse, they mimic our movements and copy our words. I learned very quickly that what my husband and I say and do in front of our 3-year-old children matters. And while most parents are worried about their children picking up bad habits or throwing out the occasional mimicked curse word, sometimes we forget about the habits we DO want them to copy. And more importantly, what messages do these habits send to our children?
What message am I sending about Love and Happiness?
For the most part, children form early constructs about what they believe to be true about the world from their parents. This includes early ideas regarding love, safety and family. Take a minute to think about your own upbringing. How did your parents demonstrate love and relationships? How did these constructs affect your friendships and relationship as you grew older? Perhaps, like me, you have some baggage in this area. Perhaps, you want to project ideas about love, marriage and family that are different from what was presented to you.
Studies have shown that modelling healthy, loving relationships is key to raising mentally and emotionally well-adjusted kids. Not only that, but more than any other medium (like tv or books) parents set the stage for what ‘normal’ behaviour and functioning relationships look like. This behaviour includes everything from affection to conflict resolution.
Here are 6 things kids need to see from their parents:
Affection – kids need to see their parents showing each other affection. As much as your children may groan at a kiss or when you cuddle with your spouse while watching tv, it gives them a sense of security. It shows them what a loving relationship looks like and that your relationship is strong.
Praising each other – neither of you need to be rockstars but find a way to compliment each other each day. I make a habit of complimenting my husband to my children even when he isn’t around. Even something as simple as, “Let’s ask Daddy to make waffles this weekend, your daddy makes the best waffles” can have a super positive impact on your children.
Disagree peacefully – I’m not a big fan of arguing but disagreements happen, in fact many would argue that conflict is a part of daily life. Obviously there are topics that are private but where possible resolve conflict with your spouse openly and peacefully. It is important that kids see their parents approach conflict in a rational, respectful and healthy way.
Be silly – children need to see their parents have fun! Both with each other and together as a family. Let your kids see your terrible dancing, embarrass them with your high pitched singing, or play goofy charades. My husband and I like to read our kids books and see who can do the most outrageous character expressions.
Admit mistakes – making mistakes is natural, and becoming a parent does not automatically make a person right. Children need to see that there is no shame in being wrong or making an error, and equally that apologizing sincerely and with respect should be a natural response.
Inside jokes – my husband and I have a million and one little inside ‘jokes’ between us and we bust them out on a daily basis and it always makes us laugh. This is an incredibly easy way to establish a quick, deep connection with your spouse. And it’s fun way of making us feel like we’re on the same wave-length. Our kids get the benefit of seeing us laugh, smile and wink at each other. It also highlights for them, if even for a brief moment, that my husband and I are connected outside of our mommy and daddy roles.
Share your thoughts with me in the comments!