As all of you with kids likely realize, your kids are mini versions of you.
Sure they are influenced by their teachers, friends and cousins, but more often than not they parrot your behaviors. What you eat, how they dress, interests, and general attitude toward the world all lay the groundwork for how your children feel about life and its situations. If you paint every day, they are going to want to paint. If you garden, they’ll likely want to be your shadow and garden with you. If you watch television all day, they are going to see that as normal. That’s a lot of power for a parent to have and one that should be treated with great respect.
Holly used to get really mad at our old dogs, who would poop on the floor (the new dog did that too for awhile). She would swear at the dogs in front of the kids, until an incident happened when Birdsnest was maybe 4. Birdsnest came across a dog log on the floor, and in perfect mimicry of Holly said: “Those…those… fucking dogs!” Inside we were cracking up, but had to explain why that wasn’t a good thing to say. Just goes to show…
Healthy eating is a very important part of life, and setting up habits at a young age will hopefully prevent some of the rampant obesity and diseases caused by diet. We eat paleo-ish, and don’t have flour or bread in our house. We aren’t total nazis about it, and the kids are occasionally allowed bread at larger family gatherings like Thanksgiving, or if we go out to eat. Birdsnest is particularly parroting our food choices, saying things like “bread to us is like candy for other people” and even recognizing that eating her burger with a bun makes her stomach feel not that great. We aren’t Celiac disease sufferers, but do think we (and most people) have minor gluten intolerance. The main issue I have with flour and wheat, is that it just doesn’t really provide anything of real nutritional value (besides basic calories), and tends to make you feel worse rather than better. Anyways, I digress.
We can also play a large influence on artistic and musical tastes of our kids. Our daughter (8 years old) has really started to get into 1D (or One Direction for the uninitiated). She sings their songs, watches their YouTube videos, you get the idea. We mentioned to her that before 1D, there was this boy band that was the most popular in the world, called The Beatles. That piqued her interest, and when we dug out the old portable CD Boombox to play her new 1D CD’s she got for Christmas, we found some Beatles CD’s too and lent them to her. She’s been playing them frequently, and has been singing Beatles songs around the house. Can’t wait to get her into other bands to expand her horizons.
Finally, your kids see how you and your spouse interact. They know when there is tension and how you deal with conflict. More than likely, they will model their own behavior as adults after yours. If the husband defers to the wife on decisions, they’ll see that family structure as normal. If there is little affection between spouses, they’ll see that as normal. Alternatively, if you’re like our house, where the kids sometimes call me Captain, you can be the leader and rock to your family. You can have a healthy marriage where you goof on each other, playfully smack each others’ butt or snuggle/wrestle on the couch together, stealing kisses or more. Which do you think is a better marriage/relationship structure to model after?
Your behavior and beliefs will play a large part in the future of your kids. Model good behavior and the chances of success go up for the next generation. Additionally, be present with your children. I wish I could have some of my time back over the weekend, since looking back, I wasn’t very present with LoudBoy who was practically begging for attention but I was in my own world focusing on other things. Next time, I will model better parenting behavior and show how a father spends real quality time with their kids.