Raising Little – Big People

What a privilege it is to be a Mommy and be able to daily watch our little people grow from scrunched bundles of pink to dirty toddlers into lanky teenagers and beyond….. As we navigate this uncharted territory with each individual child I repeatedly remember someone once telling me that, “We are not raising children but adults.” In our homes we don’t have before us a future Big Kid but instead a little Mommy or Daddy, a business owner, an entrepreneur, a farmer, a dancer, an artist, a friend, a home maker, a designer. All these things and so many more are all packaged up – often not so neatly – into these little bundles set before us. So as we discipline and train and mentor our children as much as it feel tedious and that I’m doing this to just have some quiet or order in my day today – we are in fact missing the whole point. All our hard work parenting isn’t about the here and now or today but rather about the “..ever after.” And yet what we do today can deeply impact that to become a “happy” or “disastrous” ever after story.

As I hear my son speak sharply, using harsh, barking commands with his sisters everything within me wants to give him a piece if my mind and send him into a timeout – till he can be nice! Yet what will this gain? How will he know “how to be nice” if I never equip him with the gentler tones to replace those bossy ones that come so naturally to a born leader? I once again gently draw him aside reminding him how you use your voice matters and how it effects  people. We talk about what our home would be like if his daddy spoke to me like he spoke to his sisters. We talk about him being a Daddy and a business owner and how he thinks his family and employees would like to be spoken to. Because the reality is the way he talks to his siblings will overflow into the way he talks to his wife and those around him in his adult life.

Beyond just managing the way our children talk to one another we have an awesome opportunity to use our daily lives to equip them with business, family, home making, people, leadership and many, many more skills that they can draw from in their adult lives. I send an older child to fetch a younger sibling off the trampoline, ask a 8 year old to make biscuits, request an older sibling to bath, dress and make a bottle for the baby, I require one to call the library to renew the books or another to phone the take away to order dinner. By the age of 10 every child needs to know how to run the home for a day – do and hang the washing, cook 3 meals, look after the younger siblings and such. A challenge each of our children have risen too and been so proud to achieve.

So as I lie on the grass in the park and watch my 13 year old stroll off with his 2 baby sisters in tow – seeing him playing with them and taking such joy in them as well as taking the initiative to take their hands and care for them my heart swells with pride as I see not before my eyes a clumsy, lanky 13 year old but instead a little Daddy. A small man-child growing in his role of leader, provider, carer and protector of those placed within his care.

As I hear my 9 year old ensure that everyone is doing their part to clear and clean the kitchen after dinner I see before me growing a leader and CEO who understands a job well done. As I need to yet again remind an 8 year old to put her clothes in the washing or cupboard I am seeing to the training of a homemaker. As we discuss money spending and saving principles in an aisle in Spar I am witnessing the training of business men and women. When I once again train a tone or attitude used in jest or nastiness toward a sibling we are building good friends and citizens of the world. Don’t be fooled by their size – nothing is ever lost on these little people of ours.

Let us not underestimate these “little people” who right before our eyes have the capacity to change the future through the way they will one day love their families, run their businesses and share their talents with the world around them. So keep on keeping on. Your efforts will reap many a reward in the years to come.

Mirrors of Me

Deep in conversation with my 7 year old, my attention was suddenly diverted to my ever busy 2 year old.  She was suddenly unusually quiet and standing dead still.  Oh my how  we laughed.  She was standing between my 7 year old and I with her arms crossed imitating the exact posture of her big sister. What an amazing teaching opportunity arose for me to demonstrate to my older daughter that little people will copy us whether we like it or not.

Recently I have been hearing more and more stories of children displaying behaviour which includes the children using sarcasm or humour but the underlying message results in them becoming really mean to others, not only to their peers but to their parents as well. Yes there are many times when the root of this behavioue is obvious.  The child has been bullied or is working through a difficult period in live such as a divorce or death in the family.  Yet there are times when parents and teachers are left baffled, pondering where this attitude – that often comes across as cute in a 3 year old but as something very unpleasant in a 10 year old – could possibly have arrived from?

I will never forget when as a new mom I was deeply concerned about my 7 month old son.  He had just cut his first two teeth and he kept biting his lip. With these tiny munchers he managed to cut his lip quite badly. The clinic sister adviced what cream to use but we were at a loss how to stop this habit he had formed. A few weeks later, whilst driving to work, I looked into the rearview mirror and what did I see? I was biting my bottom lip!  Oh my, without knowing it the stess of Mommyhood had been kept well under tap and yet it was leaking out in this new habit and our baby boy was copying it!

If we begin dig down into the archives of  our memories and dust off the cobwebs, looking back at the life of a child. You will recall that when only a few weeks old, your baby mimiced a tongue being stuck out. By a few months they would copy sounds that you made. They smile when you smile and clap as you clap. Your child will learn to speak the language you speak, dress how you dress and will usually participate in the religion and social activities such as sport or music that their family values.

Again and again I have heard of a child who is adopted or lives with a step parent  be told how much they look like this parent. The reality is that they often don’t look any thing alike instead, the child so closely mimics the adult’s mannerisms that it actually presents itself as the parent and child looking a like. Humour, vocabulary, a gait, attitude to work and all other behaviours are not born with but instead learnt from those around us. The way we walk and talk was not chosen but rather picked up over years and years of subconsciously immitating those around us.

Looking back at our sweet, little person who is developing this nasty streak that has baffeled parents and teachers alike. Could the cure lie not in psychology or medication but instead a good look at who they are spending time with? It may well be other children – often older than themselves – books they are reading, computer games they are playing or movies they are watching. Or it may even be coming from home.  Most of us consider our homes and especially ourselves as being no threat to our precious little people.  Yet as I learnt with our baby boy, they are watching us all the time. Often we mean no harm and yet a simple expression of our stress, a reaction to a car driving too slowly or the irritation with the morning routine, is infact instilling within our children attitudes and habits for life. They don’t understand or appreciate that we are in a stressful situation or that our sarcasm is simply a form of humour.

So as difficult and as unpleasant as it is, when our children begin displaying distasteful behaviours, attitudes, reactions or mannerisms – before we start pointing fingers let us take the time to look at ourselves and see if infact a few adjustments in our attitudes or habits need to be honed. They see and hear all that we do and as much as I tell my children to do as I say and not as I do, they just keep copying me!

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