I’ve always enjoyed family meal times. We don’t have TV-dinners at our house, no way. We sit around the dinner table to eat our meals and we talk as we eat. We discuss our days, our plans, and any other topics that come up. It’s mostly fascinating to hear the wonderfully convoluted recollections of mundane school activities, and it’s an excellent time for family bonding. I wholeheartedly recommend that every family, no matter what their situation, tries to ensure mealtimes are used for both significant and meaningless discussions.
Imagine the shock a short time ago when a curse word escaped from our six year old daughter’s mouth during her riveting recap of her school day. My wife noticed it too, and we exchanged a glance that said we would bring it up with our daughter later on. The same word floated out of her mouth again, and again one more time a few moments later. Okay, what was happening here? Our older children didn’t seem to notice, and after dinner when my wife and I discussed it we both figured our precious daughter must have picked it up from some troublesome kid at school. We were wrong!
The first question we asked our daughter later was about the source of the curse word. We were both stunned when she told us that Mommy says it all the time. Sure, we’re not perfect parents and we do mildly curse now and then, but we’re very careful about setting a good example in front of our children. Our daughter had overheard Mommy talking impatiently on the phone with a salesperson, and had picked up on the under-her-breath curse word that was used when hanging up. This had happened on several occasions, so we were informed by our youngster.
I couldn’t help smiling, but my wife wasn’t easy on herself knowing that she was to blame. It sent a wave of bad-parenting surprise through her, and self-doubt planted itself into her mind for several days. She had a more traditional upbringing than I did, and I suppose that this kind of harsh language was expected from men more than women. After some subtle questions for our daughter and a discussion about why she must not using that word again, there was no harm done.
It’s not a new idea, but old ideas sometimes need repeating.
Children watch, listen, learn, and copy. They mimic what they see, they repeat what they hear, they conform with what is normal in their environment. A child surrounded by bad behavior at school will often behave badly herself. A child who has curse words thrown around at home will use them at school. It’s no surprise that a child who sees Mom and Dad argue over and over again will often be argumentative. Most good parents know and understand the concept of setting a good example, but it’s a shame that so many of us forget it so often.
As my wife and I discovered at dinner that day, the small things can count just as much as the big things. As parents we have to keep our guard up and be diligent. We have to be careful that little daily habits that seem so harmless to us do not negatively affect our children. Cursing a phone salesperson seems fairly normal until your daughter starts cursing in everyday conversation.
None of us are perfect parents, but we all want our children to get the most out of us as possible. Hectic lives lead to sloppy habits developing, but our children deserve better than this. They deserve the best possible chance we can give them to be good people when they become parents.
You have to strive to be better than you ever thought you could be. Never stop learning and adapting, and stay vigilant with your efforts to set good examples for your children. If grandparents ever get the chance look on proudly as their grandchildren succeed then it’s surely an excellent measure of their own parenting ability.