Children are like sponges for information. Their developing brains are constantly creating new space that is soaking in the world around them. They’re learning even when they’re not looking at you or listening to you, and they are doing so often when you think they’re not paying any attention at all.
Sometimes, it is important to have that reminder – the reminder that your children are always watching and learning. Because, right now, you may be showing behaviors that are impacting your children.
Modeling Healthy Behaviors
Your behaviors are observed by your children. There is this belief that “children are resilient,” and it’s true, but their brains are still developing how to respond to different situations, and they’re learning to understand the world based on how you react.
For example, if you react with anger or express hostility in a situation, even if you believe that your behavior is warranted and your reaction justified, your kids are still learning “in specific situations, it is okay to react with anger.” They may also change their opinion of you. They may see you as an angrier person than they expected, or they may believe that their own anger is acceptable if they feel like it is.
We see this not only with anger, but also with anxiety. If you see a small bug and react with fear, then your child is more likely to react with fear as well. They inherent your phobias, even though phobias are, by definition, irrational fears. Your child doesn’t need to act scared of it now for it still to create a phobia with them later.
Assume They’re Always Watching
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. You can’t be upset with yourself if you find that you’re reacting with anger, fear, or other negative emotions in places that do not warrant it. It’s going to happen. Everyone does it. You’re not expected to maintain yourself all the time.
But it is still a good idea to at least be aware that what you’re doing now can affect your children, and that they’re taking in your reactions and behavior the way a sponge takes to water. By at least having this awareness, you can potentially stop yourself before some of your reactions, you can teach your children lessons, and you can make sure that you’re aware of what they’ve seen to know more about what you can do to help them navigate this world.