The foundation of people’s lives are shaped by their family life and experiences.
That moment when you suddenly realize: I have become my parents! You hear the words coming out of your mouth and immediately you think – when did that happen? When did I become the parent I said I never would be?
I was waiting for a bus today in front of a neighbor’s home. It’s hot, the windows are open, and the street is quiet. Someone is talking on the phone very loud. I am sure she does not want me to hear this conversation, but there is no place for me to go, I am waiting for the bus. She is yelling at her mother. She is 35 years old with 5 children of her own and she is yelling at her mother in the same manner she probably yelled at her mother when she was a whiny teenager. Calling her mother an irritating interfering nag. The bus came, so thankfully I did not have to listen to the rest of the conversation. I could not get the tone of her voice and the insulting words she used out of my head. I know this neighbor, they are a normative family, happy kids, friends coming and going, and active in the community. I could not help but think, I never spoke to my mother like that, not when I was a teenager, and certainly not when I was an adult.
I thought about it some more. What if her kids were home at the time and listening to the way she spoke to her mother? What is that mother teaching her kids about communication and relationships within the family?
Every time we say something, take an action or have a reaction to someone or something, our children are watching. This is how our babies learn to talk, to walk and to act in the world around them. Although it seems like by the time they are teens, they are no longer paying attention to us, in fact the opposite is true. They are listening to our words and observing our actions, examining how we handle everything from how we talk to our friends, neighbors, and service people to how we handle work stress and community life.
We observed and heard our parents and that is why we find the words that came out of their mouths are now somehow coming out of our mouths.
The challenge for me and all of us as parents is to provide positive examples through our attitudes and behaviors within the family and in the outside world.
The simple truth is none of us are perfect, and I have said and done things that I wish my children hadn’t heard or seen. Recognizing and admitting our mistakes is just as important as our initial actions. These moments allow us to demonstrate such challenging emotions as forgiveness, humility and empathy. I hope that if my neighbor’s kids were home, she was able to see that her words were wrong, and talk about it with her kids. I hope that I have been able to communicate that message to my kids.
Every day is a new opportunity to help our children become great people.
It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. ~Joyce Maynard
Kav L’Noar can provide tools and techniques for parents to learn the skills needed to become more understanding, and empathetic, with the ability to set limits at the same time.