Updated: Jun 13, 2020
How Dads influence their kids.
Kids Watch EVERYTHING you do. Absolutely Everything. If you don't want your child to do something, then you shouldn't do it in front of them. They are always listening, even if you think they are not. When they hear something they store it in their brains for future use. To further complicate this scenario, they watch everything your wife does, as well as anything any older siblings, cousins, neighbors, classmates, neighbors, friends, and anyone else they come in contact with. They are sponges at a very early age. I'll tell you a story about how I learned this lesson.
"Dada why you say 'damn it'? Why you say 'damn it' Dada?"
My oldest daughter was given a small trampoline that we could put in the basement as a gift. I was tasked with putting it together, a fair task as I like putting things together. The trampoline was only about 3.5 ft in diameter, so it wasn't too difficult. I pulled everything out of the box and got to work. My daughter, who was about 3 years old at the time was sitting in the basement too. She was playing with her toys and minding her own business, The frame went together with the little buttons that click into the holes. Pretty easy start! It was up and ready for the jumpy part in under 5 minutes. The part that you jump on was connected to the frame by these little bungee cords. The cords were small loops with a hard plastic ball that connected the loop. You would thread them through a grommet on the canvas and around the frame. At the place where the loop met the plastic nub, you would pull the loop over and around the nub and it would stay in place. If you can't picture that, don't worry just stay with me. As more and more loops were added to the trampoline, the tighter it got. While the manufacturer did provide a tool to make this chore easier, it was still annoying and not very easy. At one point in time I one of the plastic nubs wasn't quite secured in the loop and it slipped off and blasted my thumb. IT HURT. I whispered "Ouch, Damn it!" under my breath. IMMEDIATELY my daughter stopped what she was doing, looked at me and said "Dada why you say 'damn it'? Why you say 'damn it' Dada"? This caught me off guard big time. She was just sitting there playing with her toys, not even looking at me. She was also across the room from me. I looked back at her and said "I didn't...." Desperately tryin to think of a quick response, but not having one. "I didn't...I said Dang it". She persisted. "Why you say that daddy? Why you say 'damn it'". Knowing that she wasn't going to drop this issue very quickly, I answered the question. "I hurt my finger really bad, but I'm OK. Don't worry!" This seemed to put her at ease. She continued playing with her toys, and I finished up the trampoline and had her try it out. It was fun to watch her jump. The conversation about what I had said it seemed that she had long forgotten about.
I learned two important lessons as a Dad that day.
Kids are ALWAYS listening to you. It doesn't matter if they look like they are preoccupied. It doesn't matter if they are across the room with their eyes focused on something else. They have their ears focused on you. "Damn it" had never come out of my mouth in front of her before. So when she heard something she didn't recognize, she wanted to know what it meant.
Kids look to you (or other adults) on how to react to a situation in which they don't know how they should react. As soon as may daughter understood that I was okay, she was fine with it. I think she reacted more to my actions, facial expression, voice tone than she did the words that I used.
If the above story didn't convince you that kids watch everything you do and say, I'll give you another one. Fast forward about 5 years. My oldest is now eight years old and my youngest is almost 3. Mornings are crazy, days are crazy, nights are crazy, weekends are crazy, weekdays are crazy, and to top all that off its smack dab in the middle of the The Great Quarantine of 2020. I had been playing a lot of Minecraft with my oldest. I like to give her a hard time and often tease her calling her a "Noob". For those who are unsure what this means, it's a term that is short for "newbie" and is often used in the video game culture. It refers to a player who is new or less experienced. One Saturday morning I was minding my own business. My two year old daughter looks at me and says "Daddy you're a noob!".
At this point I'm not surprised by this. She's heard me and both of her sisters use this word. Kids model their surroundings. If you want your child to say 'please' and 'thank you' then you need to use these words around your kids. If you don't want them to use swear words then you shouldn't either. If you would like for them to hold doors for those behind them, then you should also be doing this. Every single time we are in a parking lot and a car stops and lets us go in front of them, I wave to that person as a thank you and a courtesy. I teach my kids to do this also. They wave too. Why? I think it is a simple gesture and something I appreciate when I am driving a car in a parking lot. Do pedestrians have the right of way? Of course they do, but they are not required to wave. So why do I feel like this is important? Because it's these simple gestures that are meaningful. They cost you nothing and may cheer that person up. I teach them this because I appreciate the courtesy wave when I am driving.
Be the person you want to raise. It's a simple concept. Model the behaviors you want to see in your children. They watch you, they listen to you. They will act they way you do. Speak to others the way you want to be spoken to. When I was growing up we were always taught the 'golden rule' which is to treat others the way that you want to be treated. A very simple idea, that surprisingly many adults can't even seem to follow. Compromising in this world is all but gone. If we don't teach our kids not to be selfish jerks, then society will destroy them. Parenting is a 24/7/365 job. Be the adult you want your children to be when they grow up.