I have two kids and one on the way. If there is anything they have taught me, it’s how to be more mindful of how I behave and interact with others. Kids are always watching you. Even when you think they aren’t, they are. I believe it’s their way of trying to make us better people.
Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t think you should change who you are because your kids are lurking, watching your every move. But I do think it would be wise for all parents to really think about what our kids are learning based on how we behave.
Are we teaching them how to be angry?
Has bitterness taken over our world?
What do they learn from us about forgiveness?
Are we teaching them what empathy is and why it’s so important?
How do we communicate? Are silent treatments and grudges the norm for us?
Sure, we spend a lot of time trying to raise kind people who understand the value of an education. And that’s a good thing. Our world needs more kindness and building a strong knowledge base will serve them well in life. But that can’t be it, though. We can’t think that our kids will just learn what we want them to learn, and ignore what they see from us. It just doesn’t work that way.
When you disrespect your spouse in front of your children, they see it.
When you accept disrespectful behavior time and time again, they see it.
When you raise your voice or use mean words to get a point across, they hear it.
When you always put your needs first, they see it.
When you hold a grudge and refuse to forgive others and yourself, they see it.
When you settle for less than you deserve, they see it.
I know life would be so much easier if they didn’t see the crappy stuff. It would be so nice if they only observed our good qualities and magically erased the ones we aren’t that proud of. But you don’t need me to tell you that’s just a fantasy. They see and hear all of it and it informs who they become as adults.
Is it possible that your kids will see the bad stuff and still end up in perfectly healthy, happy relationships as adults? Of course it’s possible. Things actually turned out that way for me. But I can also tell you that it’s not likely. I can list a number of people in my life (many in my own family) who struggle big time in relationships and it has a lot to do with what they witnessed as children.
And if your kids have witnessed you having arguments with your mate or behaving in ways you aren’t proud of, it doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. Not by a long shot. But it does mean that you need to be more mindful going forward. It does mean that you need to think a little bit harder about how your relationship behaviors and decisions are influencing your children. You need to realize that although children shouldn’t know about or interfere with your adult matters, they are still watching how you behave. They are still looking to you to teach them how to love.
So the next time you feel compelled to do something that you realize may have a harmful impact on your kids, just take a deep breath and make another choice. Think about what you would want your child to do in the same situation. How would you want him to act? What would you want her to say? What would you want his next step to be?
It’s odd, but we often want more for our children than we accept for ourselves. We want them to be happier and healthier. We want them to find the deepest kind of love, even if that type of love has escaped us. But I urge parents everywhere to change that frame of mind. You can change. We can all change. And the truth is, it’s what your kids want for you. That same happiness you want for them—well, they want it for you. The least we can do for our kids and ourselves is try to become better people. After all, they are watching.
BMWK family, what are you doing to set a better example for your kids when it comes to intimate relationships?