Monkey See, Monkey Do…

Would you believe ‘they’ say that a child’s character is established by age 12? That is CRAZY!!!  Right??  We didn’t even have time to teach them about character – they are too young to understand.  I agree… and I am not sure what happens at 12…  I do know, however, that they learn so much more from 0-12 than they do from 12-24…. And even less after that. 

Teaching our Children

So how do we teach our tiny children character?  We don’t.  They’ll learn it on their own – forming their own opinions and making their own mistakes.  I mean – you all know the saying “do as I say, not as I do!”  We teach our children to follow the rules we have set.  That works to keep them safe and out of trouble.  But does it build character? 

What we forget is that our children follow our lead.  When you put your hands on your hip… guess what they’ll do!

Our children look up to us.  They do not need a reason, they just do.  We can try to give them a reason though.  We should be conscious of what we choose to do and say in front of impressionable children.  I am sure I do not need to tell you…they WILL do what we do and say what we say.  We see it when they are playing “house”, pretending to be on the phone, pretending to drive.  They are acting like us. They use the words they have heard, over the words they have been taught.  We’ve all heard a child say something we wish they hadn’t or was too grown up.  At school – we hear it ALL.  When planning a Mother’s Day craft a group of children were asked “What does your mom like to do?” the responses varied, and were telling, from “my mom does everything – because ‘nobody else lifts a pinky to help her’” to “she gives me band-aids and kisses my boo-boos” to my personal favorite “who wants to know?”

It’s easy to see and hear all the less desirable things our children learn from us.  It happens so often and usually makes us blush!  But, more importantly, do we take time each day to notice the good things? 

Think about the qualities you want to pass on to your children.  Ask yourself:  ’Is my child polite?  Does he use his manners?  Does he listen?  Is she patient?  Will he help someone in need?  Is she empathetic, thoughtful?  Are they good friends?  Are they eager to try something new?  Ask yourself… Am I polite?  Do I use my manners? Do I listen? …. You may be surprised.

Encouraging Postitive Behaviors

When we say please and thank you, when we are kind to others, when we hug them, love them and listen to them… AND each other, when we get up after we fall, when we keep the faith and press on…. All these things help instill this behavior in our little ones – our actions speak louder than words (you’ve heard that before!)  It is more subtle, and also more powerful.  

Be the person you want your children to pretend to be when he/she is pretending and as they maneuver in life – praise him/her for doing the right thing.  It builds character.  Be easy on yourself, it might take a while to get the hang of it.  Kids are instinctively good, they just need role models to fine tune their concepts.  And, remember to pat yourself on the back at least as often as you blush!