Reflections of Ourselves
The bad behavior my daughter learned from me
Something I never realized about parenting, until recently, is just how much our kids act as a mirror for us. So much of our kid’s behavior is a reflection of how they see us, and if we want to shape them into the kind of people we want them to be, we must make sure that we, ourselves, are the kind of people we want to be.
A good example of what I’m talking about happened recently when my daughter, Annie, grabbed a piece of toast off my plate without asking.
“Just a minute,” I said. “Did you ask if you could have that?”
“Sorry,” Annie replied with a total lack of sincerity and the annoyed tone of a teenager.
For a moment, I was totally taken aback and just stared, lost in thought. What had made my adorable three-year-old suddenly say something so brash and unappealing? I was at a total loss.
That night I told my wife about what happened, and she was equally stumped as to where Annie could have picked up the phrase.
“Does your Mom say that?” I asked.
“No,” my wife said. “Does your sister?”
“Not since she was about seventeen.”
We soon dropped the subject and went to bed without figuring it out. But then a few days later, my wife and I were tired after a long day, and when she complained that I didn’t manage to pick up the laundry I found myself snap, “Sorry,” with the same unappealing tone as Annie had used a few days earlier.
For me, this was an “oh, crap” moment when I realized that, in this instance, I was the source of my daughter’s poor behavior. It’s easy to recognize our own good qualities in our children (and to congratulate ourselves for passing them on), but it’s harder to see the things we do (and pass on) that are less attractive.
Being a good parent means taking a long look in the mirror and being honest about what we can do to improve ourselves. It’s exhausting work, but if we don’t do it, we will see our own worst qualities reflected back at us in our children. This time it was something small, but if I don’t make looking inward a priority, there will come a day when I see something a lot worse in my children, and that’s something I definitely want to avoid.
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