When our oldest son, Steven was 3 years old, he was riding in the back seat of our car when I had to brake suddenly. I hear Steven blurt from the back seat “Watch Out!” (funny enough this is our son that can’t see) I told my husband about it when we got home. He cracked up… I told him, “I do not blurt at other drivers, so obviously our son was imitating you!”
When Steven was probably around 4, we were getting ready for something and Steven was tired of the process, and disgustingly said “I’m not going to do this ALL day!” We had a little talk about his attitude and I thought Ok, where did that come from? A couple weeks later I was trying to get both the boys ready and they were goofing off and not cooperating, when suddenly in my frustration I said “oh come on, I am not going to do this ALL day!” Oh shoot… I hadn’t even realized that was a phrase I used… Ok, he got that one from me.
One evening when Sean was 4 years old, just the two of us were hanging out. The TV was on but we had both been out of the room, so when we came back in, I didn’t catch what was on the TV. Suddenly I looked up just in time to see Jean-Claude Van Damme, in his movie Bloodsport jump up and kick a guy in the head and in slow motion, blood went flying… At the same moment I noticed my 4-year-old is sitting on the edge of our ottoman glued to the TV. I jumped up to lunge for the remote. Sean whipped around and put his little hand up, and said firmly “don’t change the channel, I am watching this and if you want to watch something else you can go in the other room!” What?! Oh no you didn’t! I said “oh, little man”…. Then I went into a come to Jesus meeting with him. Ok, sadly this comment could have come out of his dad’s mouth or mine, directed at the other.
For good or bad our kids pick up on things we say and how we say them. When Steven was 3 years old, he was riding in the back seat and he had the hiccups. I could hear he was saying something but it took me a couple times to realize what he was saying. Every time after he hiccuped he would softly say “excuse me”. I found that to be adorable, but I did let him know as much as I appreciated him saying excuse me at other times, that he didn’t have to do it after hiccups.
Unfortunately, we as parents or leaders in any area of our lives, tend to want people to do as we say, not as we do. We all learn better when something is modeled regularly in front of us. We teach our kids manners by using them in our homes regularly and consistently. If you have a potty mouth, don’t be surprised when your child blurts one out at the most unopportune time. Our kids are learning how to respond to things by watching how we respond. Do you lose your temper when you drop something or spill something? Do you raise your voice in anger when there is a disagreement in your home? We have friends that set a standard in their home of no yelling, period. I thought they just meant in anger, but they explained if someone was upstairs and wanted someone downstairs, you couldn’t yell to get their attention. The only exception was if someone’s life was in immediate danger.
Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Studies have shown that kids will often, even as they become adults, respond to things the way their parents would have, rather consciously or unconsciously and for good or bad.
What are you modeling for others? If your child or employee were imitating you, what would that look like?