Parenting by example
Created by Neha Saroha Updated on Jan 24, 2020
I am sure you have heard of sayings,”"An apple doesn't fall far from the tree" or
"A chip off the old block", depicting how children usually take after their parents in many ways. While physical appearances and certain specific habits can be partially attributed to the little wonder called DNA, behavior generally is a totally different story. So if a father (or mother) is a short tempered person, attributing the child's erratic nature to the "genes", would be a mistake. Nevertheless, the reason for his erratic behavior, are actually his parent(s), but usually the culprit here, is negative role modeling—something, if we work towards, can be improved or even reversed, which is exactly what I would try to emphasize through my post today.
A role model is someone others look up to, in order to help determine appropriate behaviors. By this definition, parents become the very first role models for children because they are dependent on us for everything, atleast in the initial years. So, a child's brain takes in all the imagery and information in his environment without completely comprehending or filtering the same. As he grows older, he starts using and applying these experiences in learning the ways of the world and forming behavioral traits. This is how children pick up language, dressing, eating or communicating preferences as they grow. Another very important development aspect that gets impacted by this phenomenon is emotional growth - the way a child reacts to the various situations in life, his thought processes, his moral reasoning etc.
While at the outset, role modeling seems to be as much a peril as promising, it’s actually a great tool in our hands to influence the direction of our children’s character, whatever their age. Let us look at some of the points that help us become better role models and shape our children’s emotional intelligence.
i) Be loving to your partner: It is often observed in Indian households that while the children are well loved and taken care of, the parents remain distant with each other. Contrary to our traditional ideologies, parents should not shy away from display of mutual affection in front of their children. They should show that they appreciate, love, respect and care for their partner's emotional needs in an unconditional way. This not only helps the child understand the true meaning of family values, but also, makes him/her more sensitive and compassionate towards others. It gives the child a sense of confidence as he steps into the outer world, if he is backed up with a secure, peaceful and loving environment at home.
ii) Be respectful towards others: Taking cue from the above, another crucial aspect is respect towards each other. This applies to all members of the family, even to the household helps. We need to model respect for others not only through our words and tone of voice, but also through our acceptance of differences and tolerance towards others. Include your children and junior family members in family discussions, and use these as ways to show them how people can get along with others and work together. Emphasizing respect towards female members in the family, helps raise strong, confident and sensitive children. For boys, needless to say, sensitivity and respect towards females, starts from home; a value much needed in the society today. For girls, a father who respects his wife, mother, sister and female in-laws, helps her respect herself and become confident of her place in the world.
iii) Be open to interaction with the opposite gender: In the presence of children, try not to make gender biased comments even for others. As long as they are out of harm's way, please encourage your child to interact and play with the opposite gender. Do not shun their interest and questions about the opposite gender and answer them in a diligent and age-appropriate manner.
iv) Be calm in difficult situations: Strive yourself to become a peaceful parent by keeping your anger and anxieties under control. Parenting takes a lot of patience and loosing the same in a typically trying situation is quiet common. While the child would forget your anger, screaming, wailing, anxiety or the insults hurled at him, eventually, he will always remember your response to an unfavorable situation and would mimic the same, when a similar opportunity presents itself to him. Use problem-solving skills to deal with challenges or conflicts in a calm and productive way.
v) Be accepting of yourself: Older children these days seem to concentrate a lot on appearances. Media leaves no stones unturned to project pictures of "perfect" individuals, who have unbelievable body structures, skin tones and age defying abilities. Adults also watch, patronize and sometimes try to imbibe the same. Not stopping at that, we even judge others based on similar parameters. As the pressure increase, somewhere we stop respecting ourselves as well in the attempt to be that perfect human being. Unconsciously we might harm our kids' self respect, by involving them in this charade or they become judgmental too.
vi) Unhook yourself from digital device: While attempting to do many things at one go—chat on our smart phone, text, socialize, shop, read while accomplishing other manual tasks—we tend to not focus on anyone properly. Worse, we tend to not listen (and not hear) to anyone thoroughly. Children pick up these cues very fast and possibly think that it is okay to be on an Ipad while hearing out what mom is asking them (Imagine: You ask your child what she wants to eat for dinner while she is busy on her IPad. All you get to hear from her are vague hmms and yeses…Wondering where she picked this habit from?”). It’s advisable to model a focused approach towards any kind of work, in front of your children. Our digital devices prove to be a major hindrance in this respect. While we can easily manage to it’s difficult for the children to program themselves the same way, resulting in short attention spans and lower productivity.
vii) Digitally Detox: Digital detox is not that hard to achieve actually. Winding up our social calls or any other work, during the child’s school or nap times is one of the options. When at home with children and family, taking up hobbies like gardening, painting, camping, cooking, playing a sport, engaging in social service of some kind or even resorting to indoor games, can be good ways of spending quality time with children and teaching them to focus on one activity at a time.
viii) Accept your mistake and make amends: Finally, take responsibility for yourself by admitting your own mistakes and talking about how you can correct them. Do not blame everything that goes wrong on other people or circumstances.
So basically, if we display irrational, dishonest, irresponsible behavior around our children, we are sure to face unfocused, short tempered and under confident children. Everything that we see our child becoming in future, we should ourselves strive to be, irrespective of our upbringing as a child. Practice what you preach. Children notice when you don’t.
Dealing with negative modelling
Children are sometimes subjected to negative modeling from external factors such as peers/classmates, caregivers at daycares/schools or even elder children in the park, but such is the power of positive role modeling that, we can change these into intuitive learning experiences for our children. Most importantly, the child should be so secure and confident of his parental support, that any outer experiences cannot alter the weave of his nature. This is only possible when he has been offered an unconditionally loving, dependable and secure environment at home.
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