When it comes to parenting, modeling the small stuff matters

When it comes to parenting, it’s the small stuff that matters most. Not only do they matter, they may be the most consequential things our children experience. Whether you are aware of it or not, your words, your behaviors, and your actions are constantly being observed by your kids.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom. Umberto Eco

Mom’s body image

This quote reminds me of an experience I witnessed at a mother-middle school daughter weekend retreat in Italy my wife and I taught several years ago. During a session on body image, we discussed the importance of mother’s role modeling what they wanted for their girls. The moms all declared that they were very aware of not talking bad about their bodies because of the deleterious effects on daughters. When we subsequently asked the girls how many of them had heard their moms judging their bodies and appearance, every single one of them raised their hands. The moms were stunned. Too often we aren’t aware of what comes out of our mouths and that our kids are constantly monitoring us. Those little comments carry great weight as our daughters struggle with accepting their own bodies.

My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it. Clarence Kelland

What are your kids learning by watching you?

Take a moment to zoom out and see yourself from your child’s perspective. What are they learning by watching how you treat your spouse? What are they learning by observing your marriage; how you treat your friends; how you treat yourself; how you cope with adversity; how you manage your emotions, especially anger and frustration? Are you taking risks and going for it or are you settling because of fears? Do you spend more time taking responsibility for your life and taking action or do you mostly just complain and blame? Do you complain about your child’s excessive use of technology while at the same time spend lots of time at home distracted with your phone and social media? 

Bobby orr models kindness

Let me leave you with a story about one of the greatest hockey players of all time, Bobby Orr. This story came from the book The Right Words at the Right Time by Marlo Thomas. It involves television writer David Kelley who went to hockey camp at age 11. There he met and skated with all-time great defenseman Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruin’s. He recalled that one day Orr tapped him on his shin pads after he made a good play. On the last day of camp Kelley promised his hero that he’d come to Boston Garden to see him play, and Orr said, “You do that.” The next season the boy kept his promise. Kelley was standing in the runway at the Garden hours before the game in hopes of catching a word with Orr. There were 100’s of kids doing the same, and he got pushed back some into the crowd. Bobby Orr came walking down the tunnel with his serious game face on. Right before he reached the ice, his glove reached out and grabbed Kelley’s hand and squeezed it before stepping onto the ice. You may think that it was small stuff, but Kelley never forgot that moment. “That squeeze meant to me, “I remember you, good to see you again. What it mostly said was who and what Bobby Orr was; the greatest hockey player in the world touched me once again with his kindness. It taught me it is not what you say in life, nor what you do, but rather how you ‘be’. David Kelley decided that day that he wanted to grow up and be just like Bobby Orr, and he hopes his children do the same. 

Live your life and parent with purpose

Take stock of your words and behaviors and clean up some of the ‘small stuff’ that you don’t want your kids to emulate. Model whatever behaviors you wish your kids to adopt. Live your life and parent with purpose.

Contact Dr. Jordan: www.drtimjordan.com

For more information about how to model leadership and leading a purposeful life, read Dr. Jordan’s book, She Leads: A Practical Guide for Raising Girls Who Advocate, Influence, and Lead

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