Do you remember the first time you heard your “voice” coming out of your kid’s mouth? I do.
I don’t remember what it was that he said exactly, but I remember the slightly shocked feeling I got, and I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “wow…that was ME!”
Now I hear it all the time. He’s had his learner’s permit to drive for about 6 months, and he drives exactly like I drive. Which is to say, with a running commentary on the idiocy of those around us. You know what I’m talking about, right? “Nice turn signal, dude,” when the jerk in front of you slams on his brakes with no warning to make a right turn. “Dude. Really?” when someone squeezes around you and sits ON the railroad tracks so they can be 3 seconds ahead when the light turns green. “What is wrong with you, chickie?” when the car in front of you wanders back and forth, crossing the lane lines on both sides. (Texting, probably.) “Go fast, be first!” to the idiot dangerously weaving in and out of traffic, only to end up at the same traffic light as you. “How nice that the speed limit doesn’t apply to you!” to practically everybody else on the interstate between your house and Walmart.
There are infinite variations on these, but my point is that my son has heard me say things like this his whole life, and they have insinuated themselves into his thinking patterns. I would venture to say that there are a lot of other things that I’ve said, or ways that I’ve said things, that influence the way Ricky thinks and speaks as well.
You’ve heard it said that kids are like sponges…they soak up everything around them. That is a truism that is definitely true! If your kids are still young, make it a point to be mindful of the words and the tone you use in dealing with your daily situations. Especially stressful ones. The calmer and more “grown up” you can respond, the better example you set for your child(ren). No one is going to handle every situation perfectly every time. Don’t sweat it if you mess up now and then. Parenting is for the long haul!
Turn It Around
If your kids are already older and there are some habits or phrases they’ve picked up that you wish they wouldn’t use, tell them. If they point out that they learned that from you, acknowledge it and explain that you’d like do better, too. Ask them for their help in reining in your own attitude or language. If it’s their behavior that pushes your buttons, make a deal that the next time a situation like that comes up, you’ll each take a breath before things escalate. If you’ve just gotten in the bad habit of throwing out curse words in your everyday conversation, ask your kids to call you out on it. Set some parameters and make it a game so that you don’t end up getting mad at them for speaking up!
I’ve been known to drop the occasional F-bomb. And there are other not-so-nice words that I use more often than I’d like. I’m certainly not proud of it, but it happens. When I’ve really crossed the line, I take some time to calm down, then I apologize. That’s something your kids definitely need to hear you say. You’re sorry. You shouldn’t have overreacted. You wish you hadn’t yelled/said that bad word.
The Power of Positive
Equally as important as reining in the “bad” influence is promoting a “good” influence. Always speak to your child as though he is a real person. Because he is! Even from birth, resist the urge to talk baby-talk to him all the time. (Some of the time is fine–after all, he IS a baby!) But also explain things in an adult voice using adult words even if you don’t think he’ll understand. It will become second nature to him to speak that way as he gets older. It will increase his vocabulary, his reading skills…the influence is far-reaching!
If you use a word he doesn’t understand, tell him the definition. If a word comes up in reading or conversation and you don’t know what it means, either, look it up! Your child learns a number of lessons: 1) it’s okay not to know everything, 2) how to find out about things you don’t know, 3) even parents can learn new things!
With a bit of effort, some patience, and a little luck, you’ll be just as pleased as you are surprised when you hear those things your child(ren) say that sound like they could have come straight out of your own mouth.