What Are Your Kids Learning from You? 3 Behaviors to Model for Your Children

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What Are Your Kids Learning from You? 3 Behaviors to Model for Your Children

Adapted from Monica and Michael Berg’s Spiritually Hungry podcast. Listen and subscribe here.
September 4, 2023
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You’ve likely heard the old parenting adage, “Do as I say, not as I do.” The problem with this line of thinking is that most kids don’t learn simply by being told what to do. Studies have shown that “non-languaged messaging” is much more memorable and impactful than anything we tell our children. In other words, children learn best by watching how their elders behave, listening to the way they speak to others, and imitating the way they act. 

Modeling behavior is one of the most effective tools of parenting. The truth is that children are listening and watching even when it doesn’t feel like it. They may not always obey their parents, but they are almost always listening to them. One of the hard truths of parenting is that to be a positive role model, we must live by the values that we want to instill in our children. 

Here are 3 positive behaviors to model for your children:

1. How to be kind.
We often teach our children the importance of sharing and getting along with others, but so often, we fail to display those values as adults. We can tell our kids they need to be kind, but when they see us acting otherwise in our daily interactions, the words not only fail to have an impact but also paint us as hypocrites. It teaches children that there are different sets of rules for kids and adults. To raise kind children who turn into kind adults, it’s important that they witness us trying to be as kind as possible, going outside of ourselves to share with others.  

When was the last time your kids witnessed you being kind to someone? If you can’t consistently recall situations where your kids saw you sharing with others outside of your comfort zone, it’s time to reevaluate your interactions with others. Practice this behavior in your own life, and make sure to let your children catch you being kind.

2. How to have appreciation.
As parents, we naturally want our children to have more than we had ourselves. But it’s also important to instill appreciation for those gifts. It’s easy for us as adults to lose sight of our blessings and start to take them for granted. We may complain about what we have or focus on the things we lack, so much so that we overlook the most valuable things in our lives. 

When our kids witness us consistently complaining or being unappreciative, that is the behavior that they learn. Make time to recognize your blessings and show appreciation for the people that matter most in your life. Those actions have a much greater impact on our children than anything we try to tell them or teach them.

3. How to handle stress and challenge.
It can be easy to overlook the importance of managing our own stress levels. There are, of course, many physical and spiritual benefits to handling stress, but sometimes we don’t have enough impetus to do it for ourselves. If you don’t feel personally motivated to let go of frustration, anger, or resentment, know that children look to us to see how to navigate these tricky emotions. When our children see us break down under stress and hardship time after time, that’s what they ultimately learn. 

We aren’t perfect people, and we all have moments of feeling overwhelmed or helpless. The important thing is that our children see us put in the effort to work through our challenges. Even if you aren’t doing it for yourself, do it for them, knowing that how you deal with both positive and challenging times is the model upon which they begin to create their own personalities and lives. 

Everything we do in front of our kids is being watched and built upon by them. One of the reasons that being a parent can be such a transformative, spiritual experience for us is because it pushes us to live by the values we want to impart on our children. 

What are the most important traits that you hope to pass along to your children? If kindness, appreciation, and resilience are your top priorities, make sure that you are modeling that behavior. Don’t just talk to your kids about these values - allow yourself to be caught in the act of living them. This is key for both you and your children to experience the best lives you can. 

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