Be the adult you want your child to be

By Taryn Yates

Posted in the Post Register on September 5, 2017

Last night, I placed my five month old on the floor to play while I took a bathroom break. When I came out, I spotted my two year old with him. At first glance, it looked like he was practically on top of him- and my heart jumped at the potentially dangerous situation. My two year old is heavy and can be aggressive. Fortunately, I let a split second go by before I rushed in, which allowed me to witness something remarkable. My two year old was leaning over his baby brother, with his face very close. He was saying “Whaaat? Whaat are you doing?” in a very specific sing-songy way that sounded just the way I say it to elicit coos and giggles. And the baby was responding!

Two things struck me in that moment. The first was how well my 2 year old had embraced his big-brother role. His actions have been beyond my best hopes. I was expecting quite a bit more jealousy and was happy to have underestimated the little guy. The second thing was just how well he was mimicking my baby voice. It was almost eerie. Hearing my words and tone come out of my son’s little face reminded me of just how closely he watches me. I honestly hadn’t noticed him noticing me and my interactions with the baby, yet here was proof he had been watching me all along. Not just watching- he was taking my actions as a lesson and example of how to treat the baby.

Suddenly I had a surge of insight which led to a theory. As valuable as parenting books and experts are, maybe the best parenting advice has been under my nose the whole time. Be a good role model. Be the person you want your child to grow into and they will. Could it really be that simple?

My son has gotten into a bit of trouble at his child care facility for a while now. He is aggressive. He really loves people, but he also pushes, hits, and throws things. It has gone on despite my best efforts. I’ve researched how to parent the willful child and how to teach empathy and kindness. I’ve learned about redirection and teaching him how to “calm his body down” and I’ve told him that kindness is the most important quality a person can have. Yet I still stressed out that I was failing as a parent. What if I raise a mean child? A bully? The thought haunts me.

If my theory is correct, then I can just relax and be patient. Throughout my fear and stress, I’ve tried my best to be kind. To avoid yelling. To understand where he is developmentally and respond accordingly. I ask him why he is sad and I tell him I am listening when he gets frustrated. I ask him if he needs a hug or some quiet time alone under a blanket on the couch. I tell him that hitting hurts and makes me sad, but I’ve never hit him to demonstrate. I’ve done my best to be a kind and loving adult even when I’m frustrated. And he’s noticed. Sure, he still throws things and isn’t good at sharing, but there are these increasingly frequent moments when he shows what a good person he is becoming. He shows concern when a friend is injured. He gives unsolicited compliments about my hair. And sometimes, when he thinks no one is watching, he makes his baby brother laugh…just like his mom.

1 twitter1