The power of quiet example
Quiet example always trumps screaming. Teach always but only sometimes use words. Consistent example will always produce the goods but constant nagging alienates. And remember, your children are relentless witnesses of your smallest words and actions.
Good example does not force us, it does not wound, but it is very persuasive. It teaches kids to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. You are raising your children not for conformity with your words, but for actions following from their own convictions.
Consistent example makes all the difference. One-offs are the stuff of hypocrisy. What about the little boy who saw his dad cooking breakfast? ‘Dad, why are you cooking?’ ‘It’s Mothers’ Day,’ dad replied proudly. ‘Then, is every other day Fathers’ Day?’
Jack Gibson, the football legend, says simply, 'It's amazing how high some parents put the bar for their kids, and how low they put it for themselves.'
It's amazing how high some parents put the bar for their kids, and how low they put it for themselves.Jack Gibson
Bad example always comes back to bite us. I remember one mum distraught because of her fourteen year old’s language to her. I remember too, on visiting the house, the father’s demanding words to his wife. Actions have origins… kids will recycle example in ways that make you proud but also that will make you cry, taking poor example to a whole new level of unkindness and lack of self control.
- Do I model consistently the behaviours I want to see in my child? Do we talk as parents about the example we need to provide?
- As parents do we help each other to give good example by giving each other feedback? Do I receive that feedback humbly?
- Am I mindful that my children will imitate whoever spends time with them, on the sports field, in the classroom, and in the virtual world? As the parent, do I see my duty to manage these influences?
- Because our first exposure to example is particularly powerful, am I am mindful of exposing my child to what is good, true and beautiful, rather than to the violent, the coarse and the misleading?
Kids overhear more than they hear!
Dad thought the renderers in his house had taken his own ladder when packing up. Before going to talk to the tradesman, he says what he thinks in no uncertain language to his wife in the kitchen in the hearing of their four year old. The little girl, hands on hips, beats him to it. She goes straight to the renderers and says, “Give my daddy back his ladder.” They did.
The neuroscience of imitation.
Example works because we are highly efficient learners who learn from what we see. We don’t even need to think about it. Humans are endowed with a special type of cell called a mirror neuron which seems to explain how peer and parent example and emotions are so easily absorbed by others. In fact scientists believe that mirror neurons are central to the way we learn emotions. Our emotional system appears to be calibrated by seeing joy and sadness in others’ faces. This is especially true for little children. Children love what we love. Emotion is contagious. Think about it.