Setting a Healthy ExampleWritten by Carole Disseldorp
Children have an amazing way of copying what we do with great precision. They watch us closely and love to do what we do. The more they are in awe of us the more they will imitate.
For example, if we use please and thankyou and are friendly to people we meet in the course of a day, then our children are likely to follow suit. If we speak loudly most of the time our children will tend to do the same. If we are untidy then our children are not likely to very tidy. My sons used to want to put on make-up whenever I was applying some when they were young.
If you listen and watch your children at play you will often hear your own tone of voice, intonation, favourite expressions and frequently see the body language that you use.
Children soon learn that alcoholic drinks or cigarettes are cool if they are constantly exposed to them by their parents or by watching adult programs on TV. Similarly if girls see their mothers or females on TV constantly dancing in a sensual, provocative manner then they are more likely do the same. If a child regularly sees his parent using violence to get obedience, then the child has a greater chance of doing similar at some stage in his life unless he is taught and convinced of a better way. A father who brags that he got into a concert without paying by sneaking in the back entrance is teaching his children that it’s ok to avoid paying for things by using cunning. If you swear forcefully when you can’t start an electrical appliance or when someone cuts you off on the road, your child is taking in this behaviour and is getting ready to repeat it. Lying about your reason for not attending a meeting or similar will be taken in by your child.
Positive traits are similarly copied.
Using humour to lighten the atmosphere can be adopted by your child if he is familiar with a lot of this. Healthy eating and regular exercise are much more likely to be adopted by our children if we can model this kind of lifestyle. Similarly, wearing hats and sunscreen ourselves, between 11 and 3 in the Summer or 10 to 2 in Autumn and Spring, will provide excellent role-modelling for our children.
Of course other factors come into play such as the gender of the parent, age, the amount of time spent with the parent, peer pressure and so on.
If we can consciously be accepting and respectful of others no matter what their age, colour, race, religion, sexual preference, ability, appearance, gender or class we have a greater chance of our children doing likewise. Children tend to do what we do, not what we tell them to do in the long run.
Therefore it is advisable that we become aware of what we do in front of our children and decide whether we want these behaviours imitated or not.
“We must become the change we want to see.”
20th century Indian National Congress President