Do you ever worry about the bad habits your children watch you throw down on a daily basis?
You know, like when you yell at your son to stop yelling at his sister, work through entire beach vacations, and drink wine from a box?
The fact that your children are watching and learning from your behavior might be a horrifying concept but, like it or not, our kids are giant sponges. They absorb everything we say and do.
But, it’s not all bad news. They’re soaking up the good stuff too.
Yes, you are doing good stuff. That might be hard to believe if you’re constantly telling yourself that you suck. But you do make good decisions all the time that your children see and learn from.
When you say no to your boss to attend a field trip with your son, he’s paying attention to your priorities. When you look in the mirror and like what you see, your daughter is learning how to look in the mirror as well. When you make a mistake and say you’re sorry, everyone learns that mishaps are acceptable and apologies are awesome.
A few years ago I crawled into my daughter’s bed to tell her goodnight and stumbled on a binder that she’d hidden under her comforter. Worried at first that it was a math or science binder for school (and needed to be in her backpack, not her bed), I immediately asked, “What’s this?”
My free-spirited, first-born child lifted up the covers to reveal not only a binder, but her laptop computer. She proudly held up the binder and said, “My friend and I are going to start making and selling bath bombs, and the binder holds our business plan.”
Well, okay then little lady.
I’m obsessed with binders. Binders have gotten me through every major growth spurt in my professional life. They allow me to break busy concepts into bite-sized chunks.
One page in my daughter’s binder featured a list of ingredients they’d need to purchase, while another held what appeared to be a mini P&L statement complete with their estimated sales (price per bath bomb times how many they’d sell), as well as expenses. The two of us laid in bed, calculating how much money they’d have left and looked for ways to reduce the expenses, like buying in bulk.
That last idea was hers, not mine.
Because I grew up in the marketing and advertising world, I immediately suggested she come up with a fun name for the product to create a brand.
“Like this?” she asked as she flipped to page five in her binder.
Um, yeah. Exactly like that.
In that moment it dawned on me that my daughter is familiar with the unbelievable passion and joy that stem from developing a unique product and putting it out into the world…because she’s been watching her mother do the same.
We must resist the temptation to assume that our children see and learn from everything we do wrong and nothing we do right. It’s simply not true. You’re a whole person—more than the sum of your biggest wins or worst losses.
A friend once told me that when his mom was in her late 70s, she apologized for working so hard and being away from home so often when he was a child.
His response? “What are you talking about? I don’t remember you being absent. I remember you being a rock star.”
The next time you need a little pep talk, think of three wonderful things your children have learned or will learn from you. You have a lot to offer, far beyond baking cupcakes and playing carpool chauffeur.
You’re shaping your children into cool little humans who want to follow in your footsteps.