The hardest job I have ever had is that of parent. I don’t want my children to learn from my mistakes, and I don’t want them to make the same mistakes that I do. But I do realize that they are watching me at all times. They are learning about how to treat people, how to be in relationships, about work ethics and a host of other life approaches just by watching what I am doing every day. Now I realize that it’s not all about me and my children are also learning from others, but as their mom I know that how I act is very important in their development.
I realize there is sometimes a disconnect between what I say and what I do. It’s often the case where my children say something and I realize they are mimicking something that I have said. I am always stunned when it happens, but I appreciate that it reminds me they are watching and listening.
What are some of the things I would like them to see and to mimic? I made a list to start off 2013 of what I want to focus on for “teaching by doing” this coming year:
- Be gracious. This means saying “Please” and “Thank you” to everyone. The store clerk who bags the groceries, the bus driver, the postal person, the customer service representative all deserve this courtesy.
- Let someone else go first. This means stopping to allow another driver to go in front of me, or seeing a person at the grocery store with one item and letting them “cut,” or allowing someone at the theatre to walk in and get a better seat in front of me. When we do this, we realize that our life isn’t negatively impacted by a few minutes of allowing someone else to get the edge.
- Listen. Listen. Listen. This means not reading emails when my child is talking to me. It means not thinking in my head about what I will say next when I am in conversation with someone. It means not repeating a conversation with someone in my head while someone else is talking to me. It means turning my attention to the person who is speaking, looking in their eyes and communicating “I hear you” by my actions.
- Speak softly and drop the stick. This means that when I am frustrated as heck with my husband for not doing some chore I asked, or with the credit card company for double billing me, that instead of lashing out, I think about their humanness. I realize we all make mistakes and we all need someone to say softly, “It’s okay – let’s work it out.” It’s not that I won’t address something that needs to be addressed, but the approach will be to speak more kindly, more gently to get my point across.
- Drop the roles of Martyr, Victim, Servant and Queen. These are all roles I happily move into depending on the state of my stress levels. Sometimes I can be all of them at different times during the same day! When I see them, I don’t want to be them. I want to be human and real in my approach. Putting on a cloak and playing a role – for any reason – creates a division between me and others. I need to stand up for myself without standing over others.
- Drop judgments. While I have never cared much for gossip or talking about others, I definitely have my judgments. Working in animal rescue, I find it hard to drop an opinion I have about someone who has mistreated one of the animals we get. The stories are just heartbreaking, and to avoid the pain, I find it easier to get angry. This year I will instead send prayers and thoughts to the person who may have hurt an innocent animal. Chances are that person is a hurting soul who has been beaten and broken somehow, too. I need to send my compassion, while I attend to the animal in need, not my anger and hostility.
- Love unconditionally. I already tell my children over and over that no matter what they do I love them. And I don’t believe in the idea of a “good child” or a “bad child” but I need to extend this attitude to everyone around me. It means embracing others’ approaches that I may disagree with and loving the person in spite of the problem – whatever it may be.
I realize that my children are watching and learning. I resolve this year to be more conscious and watch my own actions, learn from my behaviors and continue to strive towards being the person I want my children to learn from.