The Power of Modeling

BY LIZ HAYMAN

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving break! The year is flying by here at MTS, and I can't believe we are already done with one trimester. I have really enjoyed getting to meet more of you, and I hope to get the chance to meet even more of you at upcoming parent coffees throughout the year. The first one will be next Tuesday, December 4th for parents of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders about anxiety in young children.

Parents often ask me things like "How should I respond when my child does…? What should I say to my child about...? Of course, there are valuable thoughts, sets of guidance, and resources for these questions. The most powerful chance you have as a parent, however, to send the loudest, clearest message to your kids is what you yourself do, not what you say. I know this can be a hard message to hear because none of us is perfect or capable of modeling appropriate behavior all of the time. There is, however, opportunity in this imperfection, to model taking ownership of our mistakes and shortcomings. As you have probably heard many times, your kids are watching and learning how to navigate the world by how they see you navigate the world. There is tremendous opportunity and possibility in this. This gives you the ability to help your kids develop strong coping skills, cultivate close friendship connections where there is kindness and respect, and learn ways of taking care of themselves. Here are a few examples of how this might look:

  • Take deep breaths when you are stressed or overwhelmed, and tell your child that is what you are doing.

  • Strive to show kindness to strangers, as well as close friends and family, and handle conflict directly and respectfully.

  • When you make a misstep, talk your child through your process (in an age appropriate way). For example- "Wow, I just got frustrated and spoke in an unkind way to that cashier. That wasn't the best way of handling my emotions."

This article, Role Model the Behavior You Want to See From Your Kids, goes into more detail on this.

Also, a book I often recommend about this is called: Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help you Raise Children Who Thrive.

I would be happy to talk further with any of you about this —  feel free to reach out. Happy December!