Gail Joan Cohen
WHO AM I?
When your children grow up they will be what they learned from their family, peers and teachers, modified by their own interpretation of what they see, hear and feel. We all look at life as a picture that we ourselves have painted. It is hard to see ourselves. We usually feel that the world revolves around us. Everyone else is wrong or stupid. We complain about people we know and complain about the rest of the world. We feel we are right, the rest of the world is wrong. Actually, we are all neither always right nor always perfect. We are all different. And, it is okay.
Our children learn mostly from us and the early years are the most formative. So, we only have a few short years to convey all our real values, assist them to develop their own personalities and help them to interpret life fairly accurately. We only have a short time to assist them in pursuing their own dreams and help them so they can live their lives to the fullest! That is quite an undertaking! I never thought that much about raising children. Parenting is not something we were taught how to do. We did not learn parenting in school and many of us were not taught this by our parents. And yet, I see in hindsight, it is so important!
Children need discipline and adventure. They need core values of honesty and decency ingrained for life. They need confidence in their abilities. Confidence is one of the most important traits we each need. We need the skills necessary to deal with the challenges that face us daily. Every person has a different personality and the coping skills we learn must be specific to us. Every person has different inherent abilities. Some skills we know naturally and are easy for us to implement and some skills need much training for us to learn.
So, there certainly is a lot to convey to our children in just a few short years! A child’s greatest source of learning is by imitating us, their parents. Most of what children learn is by watching what parents do and say. We do not learn as much from listening to what our parents tell us to do as we do from watching what parents actually do. So, it is very important that what we are doing is what we want our children to learn. Are you being the person you want your children to be? Think about that! Ask yourself, “If my child grew up to be exactly like me, would I be satisfied?” If so, you are on the right track. Don’t change.
If you do not want your children to be exactly like you, then you may want to alter some things. Perhaps you smoke and don’t really want your children to smoke. Or, maybe you drink too much and would rather your children would not drink excessively. Do you use inappropriate language and want to teach your children not to use inappropriate language. I remember I yelled and screamed at my children. How could I teach them not to yell and scream. We cannot be impolite and nasty and teach our children not to be impolite and nasty. Children will mimic us and will do as we do.
The way that we treat our spouse and our children is exactly how our children will treat us, their siblings and their friends. We don’t need to go far to know this is true. How many times have I heard our older child speak to our younger child and recognized that it sounds exactly like me speaking. Did it make me happy or did I cringe when I heard it? Suppose our child were to spill his milk at the dinner table. Would we yell and call him stupid or should we simply give him a towel to clean it up? Suppose you spilled your drink at the table? Would someone call you clumsy? How would you feel? What would you want someone to say or do to you? No one is clumsy on purpose. Accept that things like this will happen. Just clean it up or give the child a towel to clean it up. Keep it simple.
Another value is lying. What are your thoughts? Perhaps we tell ourselves they are only “white lies” and don’t hurt anyone. A lie is a lie. If we do not want our children to lie to us or to teachers or to friends, we must not lie. Our word is our honor. Lying is never appropriate. We cannot act one way and teach our children to act differently than they see us act.
Another value you may want to pass on to your children is honesty. Think about what our children hear at home. Are we honest? Do they hear us tell untruths? Do they hear us call in sick at work and then go shopping instead? Honesty is an important value. Can we punish our children for not telling the truth if we do not tell the truth? When a child is dishonest, we must find out why and then deal with that issue. If a child steals and tells the truth about it and the child is belittled or embarrassed because of it, will the child then learn to not tell the truth? What we teach and how we deal with it can be very complex. It makes it more difficult if we are not truthful. This is a big one. If telling the truth is an important value that we would like our children to have, we have to make sure that we have this value, also.
Some other traits to evaluate would be “easy to anger”, “impatient”, “messy” or “disorganized”. Is this you or your spouse? Would you function better if you were more organized or if no-one yelled at you? Getting organized is not easy. Start with one very small space like part of your kitchen counter top. Then keep that spot organized. Instead of putting something on that empty spot, put it away now where it belongs.
Stopping these behaviors is not easy. We also need to work with our children to recognize the situations that bring about these unwanted characteristics. It isn’t cheating to avoid situations that bring on the bad response, particularly as you work on eliminating the bad response.
If your child grew up to be exactly like you, would it please you? Are you being what you are teaching? This then is the first step. It is never too late to be the person you would like to be. You are very special. You care and you care about your children. Take some time to think about yourself. What values are important to you? Write them down. There is not a right or wrong answer. We often see that with our spouse. We have all been raised differently and have different values and opinions. It does not necessarily mean that you are right or that your spouse is right. I don’t believe there is right or wrong. I believe in different opinions. We are all different. Who are you really? Who would you like to be? As you help your child grow and develop, think about who you really are.
This is where we will start. As we discussed before, change takes time and patience. Think about who you are. Is it really who you want to be? Discuss these thoughts and feelings with your significant other and your family. Remember, the only person we really have control over is ourselves. Being aware is the first step so you are well on your way. Good for you! Pick one trait in yourself that you want to be different. Work on that a little each day. Notice if your spouse responds differently. Do your children respond differently to you? Keep it up. Once you have mastered one characteristic then choose another. Keep going. Be patient. The rewards are well worth the efforts!