Children are your Emotional Mirror

Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.

Bob Keeshan

One of the interesting parts of being a grandparent is watching your child raise their own child. You learn pretty fast some of the bad habits you had as a parent because you are seeing those traits passed along to your grandchild.

My son and his son were recently visiting us. They live out of the country, so when they visit, it is an in-your-face, long term commitment with your child and grandchild. I often wonder how I might feel if I could play with my grandson for a few hours and send him home to his house. (SIGH) No matter! It’s not going to happen! So, back to the visit, my son was feeding dinner to my grand baby and the exercise was escalating into a battle of wills in a hurry. Raising competitive kids can backfire in this situation. My son really wanted to WIN this battle of wills at the dinner table.

I will admit- I had this same exact battle with my children when they were little. I like schedules and consistency, therefore, dinner needed to be taken care of at the same time each day. My husband saved my kids from this battle on more than one occasion.

While watching my son re-create this experience that I had lived many times in my young parenting life, I witnessed something I had never before taken the time to see. The more irritated and stubborn my son became, the more irritated and stubborn became the baby. The reaction was directly proportional to the initial action of the parent.

What a light bulb moment! Children really do take their cues from parents on how to act in any situation. When we show them our less desirable actions, we are teaching them those very actions. You’ve probably seen a stressed out mother with a crying child. Which came first? Maybe you have noticed parents yelling at children and seen those kids scream or yell back. Isn’t that what they should do? How about those happy-go-lucky parents who never seem to worry about a thing? Their kids are usually exactly the same way.

The next time you are seeing behaviors in your child that are making you unhappy, take a step back and examine your role in the situation. Did you bring home stress form your job? Did you just get a bill in the mail you weren’t expecting? Your kids can sense your feelings. Do your best to give them positive emotions and behavior to give back to you. It’s like the old saying goes- You get from the world what you put into the world.

Helping Little People with Big Emotions

Thinking of your child as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment. Thinking of your child as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help them through their distress.

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Working in early childhood education, our staff often talks about the behavior of kids. We work with 3 and 4 year old children, so these kids still have lots to learn regarding behavior in a school setting.

I read an interesting article recently that put a new light on how we handle the behavior of the children in our school readiness programs. It stated, when children don’t know how to read, we teach them. When children don’t know how to write, we teach them. When children don’t know how to compute math problems, we show them how to handle the problem. When children don’t know how to behave……. we need to teach them.

So often, adults can throw their hands in the air and exclaim, “What are we going to do with this child?” Here is what you are going to do. You are going to remain calm and help your children learn to identify feelings. Ask if are they frustrated because they are unable to do something they want to do? Are they sad because they had to leave somewhere fun? Are they tired, happy, irritated, or what? By teaching kids to name their feelings, they learn to identify them and we adults can help them deal with their issues. Yelling at a child “Why are you crying?” is not going to help them understand their emotions and feelings.

You may have heard of the educational emphasis on social emotional skills. These are the skills that employers say they are looking for in employees. Can the person, cooperate and communicate? Is the person self motivated, self regulated, and able to work under stress? These are the skills we are beginning to work on in the preschool environment.

Remember when your little person is showing big emotions, it is our job to remain calm. If parents join into the emotion, situations escalate quickly. Keep in mind dealing with emotions is a life long issue, and the more we help our children handle emotions in their early years, the easier puberty will be for all of us!