Thought for the week: Role Models (May 18, 2015)
Children are impressionable. They are influenced by our words and, some would say, even more by our actions. Of course it is both. However it is not just our actions towards these youngsters that influence, it is our actions towards ourselves and others. Whether we tap into the child we once were, consider our own children, or those we come in contact with as teachers, coaches or tutors, we are all impacted. How do you communicate to your partner? What are you saying when you mumble something to yourself? How do you treat the store clerk or someone who has cut you off on the road? Children are watching, listening and learning to words but also tone, vibe and body language. Among many things, children learn respect, collaboration, conflict resolution and cooperation towards others, and themselves, from the families they grow (grew) up in and from the adults around them.
Most teens in my office today are more stressed then ever. Most, if not all parents are not putting unrealistic demands on their children. Society plays a role here, but also children are watching and listening to the adults around them put unrealistic demands on themselves. Extended work hours at the office, work phone calls, texts and emails nearly twenty four hours a day. Another example is children listening to men and women criticize their own bodies (as well as the bodies of others) and the shape the are in (or, not in). They see mom or dad, coach or teacher, put a hand to their belly and grimace, or shake the “extra” skin under their arm. It sends a message – “not acceptable” “not good enough”. They notice our relationship with food and our own bodies, what we tolerate and what we don’t. We tell them to be honest, fair and compassionate, but do they see us cut in line or return something with a reason that isn’t accurate? Do they experience us being open minded and considering the perspectives of others as valid? Most importantly, do they see us being fair, compassionate ad open minded with ourselves? Often it is the subtleties that matter most, as there tend to be many more of them that become so common in our everyday worlds that they fly under our own radars.
Think about your own childhood. What “behaviors” influenced you? I remember watching my father take handfuls of vitamins each morning. As an adult, it just seems like the natural thing to do. This is obviously a benign example, but try to remember the various nuances and messages and note how they influence your thinking today. None of us are perfect. Aim for balance. They may see you work hard, but hopefully they also see you allow yourself the nap, the time to read the paper or enjoy a leisurely bike ride (vs. the weekend warrior who must perform and then can’t move from soreness). Remember as you walk through your day, the children around you aren’t always listening, but they most likely are watching how you treat them, others and yourself.