Last night my son planned an impromptu date for us in his tent. It was so sweet, he even had my daughter deliver us a try of dessert while we were in the tent. It was so thoughtful! We watched a TV show and then our new chocolate Lab puppy came in to snuggle.
Then suddenly, the kids decided they wanted to have a Nerf gun fight. My son looked at me and asked, “Mom, is this stressing you out?”
He read my mind because moments before, I felt relaxed and had enjoyed our time of quiet and relaxation. What struck me most about this statement was not that he knew how I felt in the moment, but that he used those words “stressed out.” He used those exact words because he’s heard them come out of my mouth recently. It was an eye opener for me.
It was a reminder of how much our kids hear us say and how they read into our behavior. They’re listening and watching more than we probably give them credit for! My daughter is at the age where she loves to eavesdrop on adult conversations and my husband and I now have to table a lot of topics for later. It also surprises me when my son is on the iPad or playing video games and he suddenly repeats back part of our conversation. We often think he’s in the zone and has no idea what’s going on in the background, but he’s proven to us that isn’t always true.
With this in mind, are we saying or talking about things we want our kids to hear? Are we exhibiting the traits we want our children to adopt?
Make it a point over the next few weeks to observe your children closely. Listen to what they say and see if you can hear or see yourself in their words and actions, both good and bad! If you see or hear things you’d like to change, start with yourself. Be honest with your kids about how or why you sometimes say or act the way you do, but that you’d like to change it. Come up with positive alternatives to the negative words or behaviors and work on them together.
Since you know your kids are listening, try to intentionally build them up by speaking positively to them and about them to others when they’re within earshot. It will boost their confidence and help them have positive self-esteem.
Change comes slowly and over time, so don’t expect to see things change overnight. Also don’t expect to be perfect and never slip up again. Shoot for imperfect progress instead of perfection. With time and intentionality, you’ll see and hear the changes and the positive benefits that result.