What We Teach Our Kids
Daniel Tiger was my daughter's first love. Something about that cardigan-wearing feline caught her eye and stole her heart early. My wife approved since Daniel Tiger is an associate of Mr. Rogers and echoes many of the same values.
When children fall in love with a TV show, they are fine watching the same few episodes over and over. After a while, you learn all the songs and you sing them when the opportunities present themselves. These days when my son gets frustrated because he can't accomplish a task, I'll quote Daniel Tiger and sing:
Keep trying You'll get better!
For a while, when my wife or I would do something worthy of recognition, the other would sing:
Thank you For everything you do!
Then we started singing each other's praises in more subtle ways. I noticed I was thanking her for every meal she prepared. She was thanking me for making coffee, a task I would have done solely for my own selfishness as I am an addict to the bean. We were praising each other for the everyday things that we did. I enjoyed being praised, but I also enjoyed giving praise because being near people worthy of praise feels good. You're reminded that you've surrounded yourself with good people you want to keep in your life.
This slight change in behavior may sound minor to non-parents, but what you show your kids is far more important than what you tell your kids. Monkey see, monkey do. Sorry, Mom, but it turns out your old adage Do as I say, not as I do isn't great long-term strategy. I'll have to remind myself of the importance of action when I'm later combating all my worst traits I've passed on to my kids.
Having more time at home as my daughter develops during the pandemic has made me realize that when we're concerned about teaching our kids how to act in the world, we also have the opportunity to re-teach ourselves. Working on our children's fundamentals is a good time to brush up on our own fundamentals. As long as we are alive, we have the opportunity to better ourselves, and when we do so, those nearest us reap the benefits.
And so the next time we're telling our kids how to behave in certain situations, we parents would be better off pointing the finger back at ourselves and asking if we're practicing what we're preaching. Because that's the best way for our kids to learn the behaviors we want them to repeat.
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