Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you. – Robert Fulghum
I find myself regularly wondering about my son Nathaniel’s hearing since I’m repeating myself nearly a hundred times if I expect him to do the things I tell him: “Get off the XBox. Hang up your clothes. Pick up the trash off the floor.” He may not be listening to me but I’m only fooling myself to think he isn’t watching me.
You may be their stepdad but your children are still watching you. As a parent I get concerned about what my son Nathaniel sees and experiences while he’s watching television, playing Call of Duty Black Ops or surfing the internet but I realize he also has another view of the world. It’s the things he sees and hears everyday as a member of my household. I can turn off the TV and limit his time on the XBox but it doesn’t change how he is influenced by what he observes and experiences in and around his family. Whatever your family form – single parent, stepfamily, nuclear family or grandparent raising your grandchildren, children are soaking up how you respond to them, how you live, what you do in a crisis and yes, how you love. It’s their view from the back seat not what we hope to or want to present but what our children see when we aren’t looking. Clearly, some of what he’s picking up from watching me is positive and some of what he learns from me is not so positive.
Reflect back on your own childhood. What was your view from the back seat? How has it shaped you as a parent? Do you remember your parents holding hands or being affectionate? Did your mom sit close to your Dad in the front seat of the car? Did they talk or sing or laugh? Perhaps you also have some not so great memories. Many of you remember fights or arguments between your parents. Some memories are downright disturbing like parents talking about divorce or one parent leaving the house. It is not usual for us to think, “When I grow up, I want to be just like…” or “When I grow up I will never …”
Children learn about life, love and relationships by watching us their parents. Children are very similiar to puppies, they grow up, get bigger and lose alot of their original cuteness as they leave the toddler years and enter the teenage and college years. The good news is that you, along with their mother, are uniquely positioned to effect and shape their lives more than any other people on the planet. The bad news is well basically the same thing. Every little thing, and I do mean every little thing, you say or do or don’t say or do has an effect. Did you hear that? That means it all matters, gentlemen, from infancy all the way to early adulthood and beyond. So beware! We either blaze a worthy trail for them to follow or they turn out exactly how we showed them to be.
What are your children learning from watching you? Take some time to think on this. Is there anything you see them doing you can celebrate as a job well done? And what do you see that you want to model differently? So what do your children see when you are not looking? What are they learning about life and love? Watch the video and remember your children are watching: you’re a role model even when you don’t want to be.