Sometimes, I feel like parenting is a look in the mirror. You see what you’re doing well and you see where things can improve in real-time, all the time.
We’ve all seen those memes about realizing your kids is growing up to be like you.
And there are those “quizzes” on Facebook that are made up of a short list of questions to ask your kids. One of those questions is, “what is something I [the questioner] say a lot?”
What a great social experiment it would have been to have asked your kid(s) these questions before, during and after quarantine to see how you evolved over the weeks at home. I know mine would shed some light on things…big time.
I started thinking about this the other night when we were watching some home videos of my husband when he was a kid. In one shot, he was wearing his sneakers while sitting on the couch. That’s a big no-no in our house; shoes off at the door. And my 2-year old shot up from his seat and practically shouted, “uh oh Daddy, your shoes are on.”
My husband thought this was pretty funny, but my 2-year old didn’t stop there. He had more explaining to do. “Shoes are for outside. No shoes in the house. Unless they’re slippers. They must be slippers. Slippers are inside shoes, so those are ok. Shoes are for outside only.”
My husband, though laughing, gave me a look out of the corner of his eye.
But me? I was so proud. And horrified. My words not only sunk in, but he’s repeating them.
What else have I been saying or doing over the last month in quarantine at home with my boys that they’re going to do or say?
So I started asking myself: what is something I say a lot?
Here are my lists:
- I love you!
- Great job!
- I can’t wait to see what you drew/made/have to show me.
- Let’s see how much dinner you have before we have dessert.
- Please slow down/pay attention.
- SMALLER BITES!
- Wash your hands, please.
During Quarantine (I admit, I polled the house for this one a bit)
- I love you!
- That’s great babe.
- Can you please just stay still for a second?
- FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (caps required)
- Are you kidding me!?
- PLEASE PAY ATTENTION
- OH MY GOD SMALLER BITES I DON’T WANT YOU TO CHOKE!!
- WASH YOUR HANDS. This is not something new. WASH YOUR HANDS!
It’s easy to overlook how powerful your impact can be on people, places and things. As a parent, it’s a mixed blessing to have a mirror walking around and talking to you. You can see the things you’re doing well; that reflection is positive and makes you feel good and proud.
But that mirror also shows you where things can improve. Don’t label these as good or bad, or even right or wrong. Instead, see this as recognizing that there are some things you can improve on to be more successful, effective or even happier. You may even see things in you that are now showing up in your kids, like the way they raise their voices when they are upset, or they are always stressed or anxious.
The purpose of all of this is to encourage you to stop, notice and reflect. The mirror is there, showing you what’s working and what’s not. Take advantage of the real-time opportunity for information. Don’t judge it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t berate yourself. Don’t dwell on it. Just see it for what it is. Celebrate the good and figure out how to improve on the other, unproductive things.
Parenting needs the mirror. A tiny, walking, talking mirror. It helps you see what you are doing so you can assess what to do more of and what to improve on. Don’t miss the opportunity to keep developing your parenting A-game.
So, the next time you notice something great in your kid(s), applaud them. Celebrate even the smallest of victories. And when you see something unproductive or some questionable behavior, ask yourself what behavior they may be mimicking.
Disclaimer: some behaviors do warrant additional, professional help. If you are unsure if your child is exhibiting behavior that could benefit from the help of a pediatrician or therapist, call your pediatrician to confirm the best next steps for your child.
Consider reading The Double Standard to Accepting Change: Kids vs. Adults