Out of the Mouths of Babes

Toddler in swingMy son is almost 2 years old and if I do not watch it, he will be even more like me. It’s not a bad thing; flattery is nice—except for when your child mimics you and you really see how frustrated you can get. It’s not really becoming. I got frustrated while looking in the refrigerator and loudly said, “Argh!” My son, sitting on the kitchen counter, mimicked me. It was funny, but showed me how I looked. Later that day, my son was mad at the dog and did what I did earlier with the fridge. That was funny, too, but did not help the dog. I told him that he did not have to scream, but if he was able to tell me (as much as he could) then we can fix the problem.

One of my clients’ mom told me that my client told her some things that were more from her husband than from her son. The mom did not like that, and told her son that he did not need to do that because it was inappropriate, and she was very upset at her husband. I agreed with her to be upset at her husband; however, there probably were some truths in what her son had mimicked. I told her it was OK to listen to her son, his feelings, and frustrations about their issue (fighting), but also to remind the son that he was indeed the child and it was not his job to tell his mom what not to do or say to his dad, her husband.

So, where does this take us? Well, we are not always aware of what we say and do until our children smack it right back in our faces. Of course, I am not talking about a literal smack—but when we see ourselves in our children, it can be shocking.

What we want our children to change, do better, or not do, maybe we are really reminding ourselves. Remember when you were pointing at someone and your mom said: “If you point at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you”? If you have not heard that, well, it makes a lot of sense. We are quick to point out something wrong in others but really do not like to point out something that we need to change in our own lives. Of course, it is hard to change, to stop a habit that is not healthy, to not always respond in anger. But it is not impossible. Our kids can help us, even if they are mimicking us when we are not aware they are really listening. Five things to keep in mind:

  1. Be aware of how you react: Reacting is very different than responding. It’s OK to be angry, but when a person reacts, emotions run high, hurting the other is more the objective, along with trivial issues rather than what is really the issue. Responding to anger helps the situation be resolved a bit quicker and easier.
  2. Watch your mouth: If you curse, your child will too. I know my son will say a curse word one of these days, and I will need to be ready. I will probably laugh (and hide it) and then tell him not to say the particular word. Then, when my husband comes home, I will tell him what happened and remind him, too, to watch his mouth. Yes, I have said some curse words, but my husband says a few more. No matter who says the naughty words, our children will pick them up and you will need to address the issue and make sure you do not say those words.
  3. You are always being watched: Our children watch what we do and don’t do. They watch when we do not think that they are watching. What they see through us helps shape their personalities. Yes, they have 23 chromosomes from each parent, which makes a new person with new attitudes, personality, likes, and dislikes, but they are also shaped by parents, their environment, how Mommy and Daddy interact or don’t, etc. Children pick up on the smallest things and also on the biggest. They show the positives that parents may do; however, it is the negatives that get the most attention.
  4. Do unto others: It’s not just written in the Bible but has been addressed, pointed out, and discussed throughout my childhood. People refer to “karma,” and yes, it does happen. If we treat others the way we want to be treated, then we are happy, feel loved, and we’re content and blessed. If we yell and scream at our partners/spouses, then our children are going to yell and scream at us. Wow! I know it’s not that shocking, but it is the truth. I know we, as parents, are going to make mistakes, because perfection does not exist. With this piece of information, we need to be aware of our reactions, voice, attitude, and behaviors because our little ones will one day follow.
  5. If things need to change, change: Change does not always feel good, especially in the process. The results of change do feel good, especially when there’s more to life, love, and happiness. If you are a yeller and you see that in your children, stop yelling. Find another way to express your feelings and actually use your words. I am sure that is familiar to some of you. If you need to relax more, relax more. If you need to be more affectionate, be more affectionate. If you are a very self-critical person, stop being that way. Get it?

As parents, it is our job to show our children how to give and show love, respect people, act around others, and have self-respect, love, responsibility, etc. How a parent knows that he or she is doing a great job raising a child is how well the child reacts/responds when the parent is not around. When a parent is not around, a child may show all the “bad” things a parent does—and that can be very embarrassing. We want our children to show all the nice and positive things. There is a balance to be had. Perfection does not exist, and the negatives will show, which means more opportunity for personal growth.

So … what do you want coming out of your child’s mouth?

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kelly Sanders, MFT, Child & Adolescent Issues Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Landon

    October 29th, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    Funny to really see yourself mirrored right back to you via your child huh?

  • ramirez

    October 29th, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    well I have had this happen to me.I get frustrated when the car doesn’t start and sometimes I swear.Now what happened once is that I was taking my son to school and the car did not start.My son starts to swear just like I did.I was surprised to say the least but apparently he overheard me swearing some day and repeated the same.

    That was a day of lesson to me.And although the little one is not around I avoid behavior myself that I would not like to see in him.

  • Jace

    October 29th, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    So important to remember that when you have a child around, all eyes and ears are always on you.

    That’s a hard one for me as anyone who knows me knows that NOT swearing like a sailor is definittely not my strong suit, but since I had my so I have tried to be a little more thoughtful and mindful of the words thast I use when I am around him. I don’t want him to be sent to the principal’s office because of my bad language that I have modeled for him. Plus my wife would kill me.

  • kelvin.A

    October 29th, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    Sometimes children each is a lesson by showing us how we look and sound when we are mad at something. They give us an opportunity to see ourselves while sto reminding us that negative behavior and actions could be micmicked by them and that we are not doing a great job as parents. A nice little wake up call in my opinion.

  • Carly

    October 30th, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    We all lose control a little, but the perfect way to find out what we really looked like was to ask our kids. Most of the time they have a much clearer view of how we acted than we do ourselves.. This is good, but only if we are able to learn from it. Most of the time as adults we will say that we have learned our lesson, but we are so scared to change that we seem to revert back to the initial behavior. Let’s try a little harder to take what we hear from our kids and find a way to be a more positive and influential parent, in a good way.

  • Jaclyn

    October 30th, 2012 at 4:26 AM

    Its just so important to be careful of what you say in front of the kids.And there’s no switch that you can flip to put yourself in the “no-swearing-and-good-talk” mode.Which means that we should practice what we preach and what we want the kids to follow.Its very important to do this because otherwise we would have imbibed the same things that we so hate in ourselves!

  • rose

    October 31st, 2012 at 5:15 AM

    they say mother is the first teacher but as I have found out kids can teach us quite a bit too.like when parents teach the kids one thing and then do the exact opposite then it can confuse the child and if we see the same negative action from our child,instead of being mad at them i think we should look at ourselves and see that the child has taught us something there.

    kids can be a big factor in realizing many of our mistakes and they do that without even being aware of it.quite brilliant teachers in my opinion.

  • Riley J

    October 31st, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    I always tell my mom I learned most of very best vocabulary words from her ;)

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