Everyone knows the old adage about watching what you say around kids. Well I’m here to tell you to watch how you say it! A recent observation has put a whole new spin on how I interact with and around my children, as they often pick up not just what I say, but how I say it.
Initially when the girls did not listen, I tended to raise my voice a little and put on a stern tone. Soon after, R and L started raising their voices when they felt like their demands were being ignored. The speed with which they adopted our behaviors was fascinating.
When one of our pups was in trouble, Jacque would call out, “Herr-meeees,” giving him a clear indication that he was in trouble. We should have realized that R, our little orator, would be able to distinguish the nuances of speech early on. It wasn’t long before R would call out in her little voice, “Herr-meeees,” anytime that Hermes wouldn’t listen, and Jacque and I began to understand just how quickly the girls picked up on context.
We also realized how harsh some of our words sounded after coming out of the mouth of a two year old. After the 100th time of telling your toddler to, “Move please. Move please. Move please,” it tends to come out a little more like, “MOVE!” Somehow the girls seem to only imitate us when we have reached our limits, and when someone is in their way, they’ll hold their hands out firmly and holler, “MOVE!” So we’ve been working on remaining patient for longer, hoping the girls will imitate our calm voice.
Not only do our girls mimic how we pronounce words and phrases, they’ve taken on our mannerisms as well. On Monday I would stomp my leg in frustration, by Tuesday the girls were stomping their feet if they didn’t get their way. From phrases to mannerisms, the girls even mimicked the sighs of frustration we would let out.
Although we discouraged the girls from mirroring some of our behaviors, we understood that ultimately, we were responsible. Instead of just punishing the girls for their behaviors, we chose to monitor our own. Time out has been an effective way of attaching consequences to actions and simultaneously giving everyone a little cool off time. It eliminated the need to raise our voices or get angry; we simply refer the girls to time out for them to calm down.
As always, your child and her behavior can be a lesson in disguise. We chose to listen and watch how we say things, and we can see our girls making changes. We all know that, “Act as I say, not as I do,” is ineffective. We have to change our own actions, if we want our children to change theirs.