Have you ever noticed that many times within a family there will be several family members with the same profession? Teachers usually have children who grow up to be teachers, nurses have children who become nurses, and farmers usually raise kids that become farmers. Is this some sort of coincidence? Hardly.
Children mimic what they see. They replicate what they are taught. If they see mom caring for sick people they undoubtedly usually do the same. If they see dad out tending to the fields or the livestock, they often follow suit. If mom or dad conquer the corporate world everyday, they tend to want to do the same.
It reminds me of a story about a woman who was preparing a ham for a holiday dinner. She cut the ends off the ham before putting it in the roaster to cook. Either her or her daughter (I can’t remember which) was questioning why it was done this way. So the woman asked her mom. The mother said, “I don’t know, that’s what grandma always did.” So they asked the grandmother. The grandmother explained that the roast was always too big for her pan so she cut the ends off! Here they had been thinking it was some secret way to produce the best ham roast! She was just doing what she had seen her mom do.
A few weeks ago, I was at the lake and my kids and I were getting ready to load the boat back on to the trailer. While we were waiting for our turn to load, there was a man with his young son in the harbor that was raising quite a ruckus. He was yelling at another boater and using all sorts of profanity. All why his son watched with wide eyes, soaking it all up. This man was quite a spectacle. He was actually yelling at the other boater that he wasn’t going to take “crap” off of anybody and was going to teach his son to do the same. The sad thing, in my opinion, was what he was unfortunately teaching his son. The correct way to be a jerk and a public nuisance. Whatever his issue was with the other boater, could have very easily just been ignored.
This brings me to my point. Children learn what they are shown, what they see. No child is born with hate, racism, prejudices – this is something they are taught. It can be intentional or unintentional. But it happens all the same.
What do we want to teach our children? Often times I have wondered in what ways I have screwed up my children. I think most moms at one time or another have questioned their mothering capabilities and wondered what kind of screwed up little individuals they are creating. I have tried very hard to not say anything to my kids about not liking my body. I tried to set a good example by helping others. Every time we encountered a situation where someone didn’t behave in a manner we thought was acceptable, I used it as a teaching tool of how we don’t want to be.
We also teach our children by what we don’t say. It’s no secret that I didn’t have a good relationship with my ex while we were married. I didn’t show my kids what a good relationship is. That bothers me a lot. The only thing I can do now is what I have done with other things in their life. Point out the good and bad and use it as a time to teach them.
Will they do want they want anyway? Yes, more than likely. But hopefully I have given them a good foundation. And hopefully at the end of the my life I can look back and be confident that I taught them well.