Through our role as ‘mother,’ we are ultimately responsible to ensure our children are raised. From day 1, we are providing food, shelter, warmth, and love. But it runs so much deeper than that.
We teach our children through everything we do, say, and experience. They observe and absorb it all, even when we don’t want them to. Thoughts, words, actions, perspectives, beliefs. We constantly add to their education by interacting with them, and putting them in situations where they learn new things.
Let’s be honest for a minute. How many times have you overheard your son or daughter say something you recognize as having come from your mouth? Or those times where they make a gesture or particular movement and you know exactly where it came from? Or those times where they say something loudly in the store and you want to crawl under a rock?
What have you taught your children?
Sometimes, kids recognize your behavior as a poor example.
One of my sons is notoriously a worrier. He’s often in the backseat “driving” for me, making sure I’m not going over the speed limit (sigh, I often am. Just to keep up with traffic, you know…). And, he polices his sister for not wearing her seatbelt. But I know why. It’s because he’s afraid “mommy will go to jail if you don’t wear your seatbelt.” It’s a bit of a stretch, I know. I said it to my daughter one day when she was having a fit and refused to buckle her belt. And, he internalized it. He’d absorbed that following rules isn’t negotiable.
Sometimes you’re surprised at the things they know.
We raise chickens in our backyard. For a few years, we’ve hatched eggs in the kindergarten class at my children’s school. And, that means we end up with some roosters. If you know anything about roosters, they tend to be aggressive, though it develops as they age. We had a rooster left this year, the Lone Rooster, who was living loose in our outer back yard (basically the garden area). Finally, though he had never been aggressive at me, he decided to attack my two younger children (they are fine, don’t worry). My daughter, 6 years old and understandably upset about the whole thing, came to me and told me the rooster needed to go. Because I was in the middle of making dinner, I was answering on autopilot, and said to her, “Daddy will shoot him when he gets home.” Immediately, I mentally cringed, realizing what I’d said. To my surprise, she paused for a second, and then cried out, “Yay! More chicken for dinner!” I nearly dropped the scrambled eggs I was beating. She had internalized the idea that animals are killed to eat, and that it’s OK.
Sometimes you’re impressed by the depth of their understanding.
When my oldest son was 19, he had a girlfriend for a while. I think things were pretty serious, because before he went off to boot camp, he gave her a promise ring. After he finished boot camp, and was home for a few days they broke it off. I had a conversation with him about it a few days later to find out what had happened. I’m not going to lie - it was a proud-mama moment for me! He had come to the conclusion that she had some personality traits that he couldn’t live with. She wasn’t enough of a go-getter. She wasn’t as independent of a thinker as she could be. And he recognized there would be more relationship drama and unhappiness if he continued the relationship long term. He had internalized the idea that you don’t have to settle, and women need to be able to think for themselves.
Sometimes you’re bothered by what you see.
My second son frustrates me. And, yes, I know exactly where he gets the main trait that bothers me. He’s not a bad kid, and he’s not generally in trouble. He has a strong independent streak, and a “the rules don’t apply to me” attitude. This is the little boy (I think he’s somewhere between 6 and 8 in my head still), who at 6 years old came to me and asked to be able to do his own laundry. He was so short at the time, and we had a top-load washer, he had to use the stepping stool to get the clothes from the bottom of the washer when the load was done. And at 16? The word curfew doesn’t mean a thing. Making sure mom and dad know where he is? Not a chance. He has fully embraced the idea of “independent” and the “you can do whatever you want” - maybe to an extreme. Even though when I told him “You can do whatever you want in life” as a younger child, THIS wasn’t exactly what I meant…
But it ALL matters.
All of these stories are examples of the influence I’ve personally had on my children’s lives. They are absolutely a product of the things I’ve done, said, and shared with them. Sure, there are lots of other people they come in contact with they shape who they are as they get older and have their own experience.
But as Mom, the ideas I laid the foundation for shape everything they have and will encounter. Some of the new ideas they’ll take an internalize and grow into themselves. But some of it will stick.
And that’s the point. Your children directly reflect you and who you are, even when they make their own choices. Remember that. Be involved. Know who THEY are. Know where their ideas are coming from. Talk to them when they’re having a rough time. They need to know what YOU think about the things they experience. And the next time they mirror something you did, remember who taught them that!
Jessica Hansen is a success coach living in Oregon. She believes that growth is a natural part of life, and works specifically with mompreneurs to help them self-actualize, and to help their businesses sparkle from the inside out. You can see more about her work here.