Children See. Children Hear. Children Do.

Today I was reminded that children see everything. They hear everything (even when you think they are not listening!) They use their senses to absorb the world around them, often teaching us as adults to stop and do the same.

My four-year old daughter, after participating in my children’s yoga class with her brother, proudly announced, “Ok mommy, now my turn.” She proceeded to “teach” her own princess yoga class, surrounded by all her stuffed animals, starting from the warm-up all the way to savasana. I was the student, and as I followed along, slightly amused, I had the deeper realization that she was “copying” everything she had just observed.

And that realization made me pause and reflect…

Who am I as a parent?

How do I portray to my children what is important?

What is my child’s perception of how to show love?

Do I give to others as I would like my child to give?

And most important of all, what can I do better?

The more I asked myself these questions, the more I felt it is true what people say: Children are our reflections.

As a pediatrician, I often think about environmental influences on different disease processes, ranging from asthma to depression. Similarly, I think each child comes into this world with his/her innate personality and spirit, but people in their environment can influence their thoughts and actions, and quite possibly alter the trajectory of their lives.

Who am I as a parent?

One definition of parent according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a person who brings up and cares for another.” This definition is a clearly a generic one. I know that as a parent I am a provider, a nurturer, a driver, a chef, a cleaner, a potty trainer, a shoulder to wipe snot on, a disciplinarian, a teacher, an organizer of activities, and my child’s number one fan! (You get my point.) I have moments I am proud of as a parent, and I have moments in which I reacted in ways I was not so proud of. That is ok. So on those days when I may have made a mistake as a parent, I own up to it just like I would want my child to do. I apologize, I explain what happened, and I tell them specifically how I would change my actions or words for the next time. An anonymous quote I once read said, “Children will become who you are; so be who you want them to be.”

How do I portray to my children what is important?

Portray what is important to you by saying it. By doing it. By modeling it. If you tell your child not to yell in the house, then don’t yell 10 minutes later for the kids to come down for dinner (I am guilty of this time and time again). We all know the saying actions speak louder than words. However, in the presence of children, I sometimes think actions speak as loudly and as equally as words. Children will say what you say and use the words you use (…and they WILL remind you when you use that “bad word” that they are not supposed to use!) So say “thank you” when someone holds the door open for you. Say “please” when you ask the waiter to bring you a glass of water. Send that positive energy out into the world in your own way and your children will notice it.

What is my child’s perception of how to show love?

One of my favorite books is The Five Love Languages of Children by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell. This counselor and psychiatrist come together and brilliantly describe different ways in which your children express and seek love and how you, as a parent, can respond to them accordingly. If love means giving someone your time and attention, then do that for your child. Ten minutes of absolute, one-on-one time with you actually listening and participating = filling your child’s emotional love tank. Or if love means giving thoughtful gifts, then encourage your child to make that homemade card for their friend, or let them think about what their friend might like for their birthday and help them pick it out (within reason of course!), inadvertently also demonstrating the joy that is felt in giving.

Love for me means many things but with my kids it means giving hugs and kisses. So every morning, when I wake my kids up to get ready, I let them climb into my lap and we squeeze each other as tight as possible, feeling our hearts beat together in silence. And if you ask my daughter, she will tell you that Mommy’s favorite “love” time together is snuggling in the morning.

Do I give to others as I would like my child to give?

A quote from a prayer I learned growing up says “…producing more than what we consume, and giving more than what we take.” There are different ways to give. Some may directly involve your children and some may be more indirect but still can act as a catalyst for interactive dinner table discussion. I have found the more I talk about giving with my children, the more they bring it up on their own and ask me about things they would like to do for others around them (AKA...mommy win!) Give toys/clothes/books/food to organizations that help children.

Give money to worthwhile organizations that truly make a difference in people’s lives. Let kids save some money in their piggy bank to give to causes they care about and can connect with such as animal shelters. Plant trees for the Earth. Give with your time: there are endless opportunities to fulfill this gift. Just be creative. Take your children to volunteer with you. Pay your elderly neighbor a visit. Take your children to help deliver food with Meals on Wheels. Make some cold lemonade for the mailperson on a hot day. Ask your child if they would like to play the piano (or other instrument) at a nursing home (my mom used to take me to do this when I was growing up and I always remember all the smiles and hugs I received from the elderly there.)

In our yogees yoga 4 kids classes, we have a rule that we teach the kids on Day 1: “We never say we can’t do something, we just have to try!” Try to dig deeper into yourself and be honest with whom you are and how you can grow.

I end my thoughts today with a challenge for you: I encourage you to take 2 minutes at the end of each day and ask yourself: What can I do better?

Peace and Love,

Reina

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