Another well-known phrase that carries a lot of truth is, “Little pitchers have big ears.” In our case, we like to say that little pitchers have big mouths. Because honestly, whatever they hear will likely come out in something they say.
It’s wonderful when those “caught, not taught” phrases such as “I love you so much!” or “You look so nice!” burst forth from an irrepressible innocent. But it’s also possible that something quite unpleasant or awkward will slip out in company.
Rather than be embarrassed by their oft-times impertinent and seemly ill-timed remarks, I try to embrace the learning opportunity, both for them and for me. Yes, inappropriate remarks need to be corrected, but just as often such an instance reflects something that needs to be addressed in me.
Right now our four-year-old has been heard to spout off with “Oh, man!” and “Honestly!” in an annoyed tone of voice when frustrated. I know exactly where those came from: he got the first phrase from his father, and the second from me, down to the exact same irritated sigh. It was actually a little cute when we first started hearing it, coming from so young a personage, but it very quickly got old. Hearing him say it made me realize just how often I say it, and I’ve been forced to confront just why I say it so often: usually as a vent to cross feelings when I am too lazy to do any actual remonstrance of substance.
Children reflect what they see. It is my responsibility as their parent and mentor to model correct behavior. While I certainly expect good behavior and appropriate speech from my children, such high expectations are selfish and unreasonable if I am not setting a good example in my own life.
Of course, the above example is an instance of a fairly innocuous habit in formation. I’m very fortunate to have had these relatively harmless examples become the harbingers of an emerging pattern, so I have fair warning of how our family dynamics operate and can put the time and effort into curbing my own carelessness for future reference.
Children can serve as a very tangible conscience system, whether we want them to or not: they’re always watching, they’re always learning, and they’re indefatigable mimics. I’ve always known this in theory, but raising children of my own and experiencing parenthood firsthand has a way of making old clichés ring true like never before. Such as the one about all that glitters not being gold. Only in our case, we like to say all that glitters probably needs to be wiped up, so go get a rag.
Photo Credit: taken by Rose Focht, edited by Charity Klicka.