Oh yes, you are. Somebody somewhere is watching you--and listening every minute--because they want to just be like you.
This goes on all through a child's growing-up years, even though adolescents and teens usually deny that possibility.
Every survey of young people comes up with the same findings. Mothers and/or fathers consistently top the list as the most important influence on their thinking and actions.
Our adult children take many of their cues from us, too, even when their lifestyles differ markedly.
It doesn't stop there. Each of us influences other people--positively or negatively--more than we know.
Don't believe it? Take a moment to recall the people who affected you and your thinking, perhaps by a chance encounter.
Watch out for giving mixed messages
All this makes it worth asking ourselves, What do my kids and the people around me think I believe and stand for?
Sometimes they pick up conflicting messages we don't know we're sending.
For example, suppose I pick up my children and we stop for an after-school snack. I run into a friend so we share one table while our kids occupy the table next to us. The two of us talk girl-talk and sip our Lattes.
What will our listening youngsters conclude from our conversation if she mentions she loved the latest edition of Oprah's magazine and I chime in with, "Oh, what I wouldn't give to have that woman's money! All those houses, all those people at her beck and call, what a life that would be!"
Then imagine later that day my kids beg for a bigger allowance and I say, "Remember, money isn't everything. It can't buy happiness, for instance."
Which do you think my children will remember most, my "mommy lecture" or what I said to my adult friend?
Or what if a co-worker had been sitting with her back to me, but close enough to overhear that conversation. How impressed would she be if the next day I told her money meant nothing to me?
It's crucial to watch what we say, but more than that.
First we need to know what we truly believe and what we stand for, then talk about it. We can't assume our kids are able to pick through and discern what's important to us. We need to say the words.
- If integrity makes our list, we point out individuals who demonstrate that, in small ways as well as big.
- We watch for when one of our kids acts kindly or considerately.
- Spread the word--to Dad, to Grandma or an understanding friend.
- Let that child overhear you telling others.
What about grades?
Keep them in perspective.
Kids may study hard and do their best, yet fall short of being tops in their class. Let that be enough--and say so.
Isn't that what we say we want, that they study hard and do their best?
When grades alone top the list, the pressure to cheat increases. So does the feeling of not measuring up.
So we applaud the effort, whatever the results.
"You worked hard, didn't you?" is music to the heart. If we search out things we admire it encourages our kids to keep on. Say "Good job!" as often as you can.
(Isn't that what we all long to hear?)
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.--1 Thessalonians 5:11
School is one thing, life is another. Every part of it gets easier when we have a personal cheering section, at any age. Words matter. So do hugs.
Our kids need to know we love them, not when, not if, but as they are.
Children respond to that as a plant responds to sunshine.
Here's to shining brightly!