19 Mar Lead by example: Why your actions speak louder than your words
Do you ever find yourself exasperated and wondering “how do I get my child to do what I want?” You are not alone. Whether it is a chore at home, or a social interaction in public there are many times when you may ask yourself “Where did my child learn that behavior?” We obviously cannot control every person and every word that our children are exposed to, and unfortunately we are limited in controlling our children’s behavior. When we focus on what we can control though, ourselves, we will reap many benefits of influencing our children by role modeling what we want to see them doing, and we can lead by example.
It can be a pretty tall order to lead by example. Growing up I often heard jokingly, “do as I say, not as I do,” but is this comment truly made in jest? It can be exhausting to know that little pairs of eyes are watching and absorbing our every move, and who really has the energy to live up to their own standards? Life is busy and schedules are chaotic, but it truly is worth looking at our own behaviors and determining how our actions speak louder than our words- whether for better or worse.
Our children start to imitate us around 4-5 months old and it starts with the littlest of expressions. From a lifted eyebrow, to blinking the eyes, and eventually a smile we experience children imitating us from a very young age. Let these infant and toddler years be a fun time to explore role-modeling for your children! There are many ways you can lead by example for your little ones without having to exhaust yourself verbally. Save yourself some energy and simply lead by example the behaviors you would like to see in them.
The Key is Consistency
According to YaleNews children learn from watching us parents well beyond the infant, toddler, and preschool years. We might not consider that our elementary aged children are still prone to imitating our behaviors, but they are impacted so much by our actions that it can interfere with their ability to learn a new task if we have modeled it for them incorrectly. You know another important skill children are learning by watching us? The way they handle their emotions. How often have you found yourself yelling at your child, “no yelling in this house!” How confusing it is for a child to hear one rule, yet see another on display. As you may have experienced, a child exposed to this conflicting information will likely continue to yell themselves. Children need consistency. When the verbal rules match what they observe then there is no question, nothing to argue, and the expectations are clear. It is not always easy to look at our own behaviors, but when we role-model the behavior we want to see in our children we can see significant improvements in our personal and family’s lives.
It’s Never Too Late to Start
Maybe you are reading this article with teenagers under your roof, do your actions still matter? Absolutely! Children learned their earliest facial expressions by imitating us, and as they age they continue to learn how to behave, manage their feelings, and treat others by watching us. Parenting teen-agers is no easy task, yet the way we regulate ourselves can have a huge impact on the way our teens learn to regulate their own emotions. It is never too late to reconsider our own actions and gently look at how our behaviors are impacting our children.
We all learn from those around us. Whether it is the company we keep, the media we expose ourselves to, or our family around us we are all mirroring and learning from one another. Let us be mindful of who we are letting influence us, as well as how we are influencing those watching us.
If you are looking for some support or guidance in how to be a positive role-model for your children, please reach out to our North Shore Family Services team. We are here to help!
North Shore Family Services is a team of skilled and approachable therapists that help parents, children, teens, adults, and couples reduce anxiety and stress, learn effective problem-solving techniques, and manage emotions and behaviors that inhibit personal, school, family, and relationship success. We make therapy a productive, engaging and relaxing place for everyone to work hard and make the improvements they desire. To find the right-fit therapist for you and your family, visit our clinician’s page.