The idea of my kids watching and learning from the decisions I make is enough to make my stomach turn. I can think of dozens of times that I didn’t role model the best behavior for them. Like when I’m on a conference call during our family beach vacation. Or I drink wine out of a box for easy access.
My absolute favorite role modeling behavior is when I used to scream at the top of my lungs, for my children to, “Stop yelllllllllllling at each other!”
All this irony is not lost on me. I’m doing the best I can, but there are many days when I know my best is not good enough. I just pray that the kids aren’t always watching and that most of my less-than-stellar behavior will be swiftly forgotten…like their math facts at school.
Mothers, in particular, are notorious for worrying about whether our kids are soaking up our worst behavior. The mean voices in our heads have us convinced that our kids will pick up our bad habits, none of the good—and end up in jail by the time they’re 15 because of it.
But are our children actually watching our every move? Are they really taking notes?
I don’t know about you, but I paid very little attention to my parents’ behavior when I was growing up. I can’t begin to tell you what they ate for dessert or the topics of their telephone conversations. I do remember that they loved a mean gin and tonic on the porch at the river house, and I thought that was awesome.
It makes me wonder if our little sponges are committing the good stuff to memory too.
Here’s an example of that behavior in action.
On Wednesday, I realized I had made a big mistake. To make a long and embarrassing story short, several weeks ago, I committed to a prospective client meeting on a Friday—and then I booked a family vacation to the beach right on top of it. Too bad this mistake did not dawn on me until two days before the said meeting.
That night when I got home, I sat my daughter Layla down and painstakingly explained to her that I would likely have to drive separately to the beach and come down a day later because of a meeting I had at work.
My girl was really unhappy, and she let me know.
I apologized profusely and explained that I made a commitment to someone else, that I booked our vacation on top of the meeting by accident, and that I needed to keep my original commitment.
I wasn’t in the mood to continue to explain my way out of my mistake, so I simply ended the conversation by saying, “It’s important that when you say you’re going to do something, you do it.”
Layla quickly picked up on the point by saying, “Oh, like the time Daddy had to leave that big event to go play tennis with his friends, since he told his team he would be there?”
Um, there are two astonishing points behind Layla’s comment. First, the situation she described with her dad occurred six months ago. Second, his choice to leave a family event to play tennis was made known in six-seconds, during a casual conversation in the car.
A six-second conversation, six months ago. All this, from a little girl who can’t remember, for the life of her, to take her shoes off when she comes into the house.
Layla was indeed watching that day, six months ago, from the back seat of the car. She watched her dad do the right thing, even when he didn’t want to, and she remembered it. And she played that scenario back to me at the perfect time, so I wouldn’t feel alone when I needed to change my plans in order to keep my word.
Well played, little one. Well played.
I believe our children watch us more often than we think, but I believe they’re looking for the good stuff, not the bad.
Just imagine, for a second, all the good stuff your children see when they’re watching you.
Seriously. Think of two things your children have watched you do recently that make you a great role model. Yes, trust me, you can think of two!