Post by guest blogger, Rusty Rea
I remember when Kelsi and I took a birthing class at our local hospital when we were expecting our now 6 year old, Madaleine. The class was actually very helpful, and gave me a brief overview of how our lives would change once we had a child (Kelsi was all about reading books about pregnancy, birth, and parenting – me, well… Let’s just say, I’m a guy…so, yes. The class was helpful!). At that class the instructor was the head nurse for the birthing unit. She told of how exciting it was to watch baby grow and develop facial recognition; and how you could get right up to a baby’s face and smile and the baby will naturally mimic and smile back.
This ‘natural mimic’ isn’t something that is limited to baby, actually it is something that stays with us our whole lives (ever notice how you begin to mimic your friends mannerisms and humor?). The ‘mimic’ isn’t at all bad, it is how we begin to actually put into practice what is being modeled for us – it’s how we start to get a feel for something new, and actually has, at its core, strong elements of relationship and bonding – making it an integral part of parenting and instruction.
It is always funny to watch little boys with their construction outfits stomping around the house mumbling in frustration (just like daddy), or little girls disciplining their dolls for knocking their pretend food off of their highchair (just like mommy). We know our kids mimic us, and it is such a moment of pride when you hear your kids ‘correctly’ parenting their toys, teaching and explaining your family’s values.
You have read previously where I have shared that our parenting style includes correcting behavior by having our children ‘re-do’ different scenarios with the appropriate behavior and action. As we parent we instruct with our words and shape our children’s actions by praise, correction, and follow through. We ALSO parent by how and what we model for our children.
We’ve all heard the whole, ‘Do as I say, not as a do’… And perhaps you’ve played that card before…. Sorry gang, that doesn’t cut it. If you don’t want your child using bad language, yelling at others, kicking the dog, etc… then you can’t be doing that either (and you have to be consistent with follow through on your correction when you kids do behave inappropriately). Now, the useless parenting philosophies from the ‘90s I mentioned a few weeks ago would say, ‘How dare you correct your kids for doing something you do, you must be perfect and model perfection before you can correct them…otherwise you are a hypocrite.’
That couldn’t be further from the truth, and is seriously the *perfectionists* frustration venting feelings of helplessness and frustration. For those of you experiencing that as you read this, take a deep breath and put your parenting hats back on.
You don’t have to be perfect and flawless to be the perfect parent! Read I’m a Big Red Hairy Monster …This will give you a glimpse into ways to handle apologizing to your kids when you know you’ve acted inappropriately. Your children will mimic everything – your strengths and your flaws. Model for them how to humbly manage those flaws and not only will you instill those life lessons in your children, but you’ll be building a deeper level of relationship with them. They’ll know that you’re a safe place – because you don’t hold them to some unattainable “perfect” measure, but neither do you let it slide.
The point is this: You need to honestly try your best to be the best model for your kids, knowing they will mimic you. When you make a mistake don’t blow it off and throw in the parenting towel, but use it as a teachable moment. Your kids will learn more from your imperfections than your perfections…