The Silent Messages We Send to Children



Actions speak louder than words.  Seeing is believing.  What you see is what you get.  We have many idioms to remind us that what we do is far more powerful than what we say.  We are constantly being observed but no one watches us more closely than our own children.  Our children take on our mannerisms.  They follow our example.  We tell our children that we want them to be confident, independent thinkers but do we model that behavior?  Sometimes it is easy.  We say “please” and “thank you” to model good manners.  We avoid smoking and we eat healthy food to show our children how to care for their bodies.  There are, however, behaviors that many parents and caregivers participate in that send messages contrary to what we hope for our children.  Do you find yourself…

  • Wishing your children were more open to new experiences?
  • Admonishing your children for gossiping and not keeping confidences?
  • Telling your children to be less dramatic?
  • Wondering why your children follow rather than lead?

Having two very different children of my own, I believe that their personalities are a combination of nature and nurture.  Some children are simply more daring, more vocal or more sensitive.  Many parents can tell stories about their personalities being evident from the time they were infants.  One of my children was always more easy going and the other was more reactive.  They have the same parents but have individual likes and talents.   

As parents, we need to understand that our children will be who they are by nature while watching how we conduct ourselves.  It is our job to model how we would like them to walk through this world.  We can’t just talk about how to live, we have to be it.  If I want my children to embrace all cultures and to be open to new experiences, I have to demonstrate that for them.  If I want them to keep confidences and avoid gossip, I have to be an example of a good family member and friend.  I have to handle tough situations and discipline without being overly emotional to show my children that problems can be solved calmly.  Children need to see us both lead and follow when appropriate.  We have to be the good sports and the adventurers.  Sometimes they will follow our lead and sometimes they will not.  Sometimes we will succeed at being a good role model and other times we will falter because we are human.  The important thing is that they had the good example more often than not. 

As children and teens, they often want to be the opposite of what they see but when they mature, some of your example will stay with them.  Do you hear your parents’ voices when you speak or do something and think, “My dad would have gotten a kick out of this”?  That is the little piece of them that stayed with you.  We need to consciously consider what we want our children to take from us as they find their way.  When I look at my children, I see a reflection of my husband and myself.  They have my eyes and his nose.  They have some of our fears but also our belief that we can make a difference in the world.  They are secure in their culture but can enjoy others.  Think about what you see of yourself in your children and what lessons you can still impart by being who you dream they will become.

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Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush
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