Ever wonder why you automatically yawn when you see someone yawning or why you find it difficult to hold your tears back when you see someone crying? The mechanism that allows so are your mirror neurons- a neuron that fires in your brain when you watch someone doing an action, telling you to do the same. So by just simply observing another, you think and feel the same as the person in front of you when you ‘mirror’ their action.
In the same way, our behaviour and actions can directly affect those around us. Ever catch yourself saying, ‘I feel drained when I’m around this person,’ or ‘I began smoking again because I’m always around x.’ Whether or not we intend so but our thoughts and actions resonates on those around us and can create a ripple effect of the same feelings.
Knowing the magnitude of influence your behavior has, how do you think you this might be affecting those around you? How about the influence you have on those that look up to you the most- your children. Children are exceptionally very good ‘mirrors’ in that they visually reflect the image of those they spend time with the most. If you are curious about your parenting style, look into your live mirror- your child.
Children have the capability to sponge information, knowledge and of course, behaviour. A parent I was recently speaking to mentioned, ‘My 3 year old daughter is also scared of dogs just like me.’ Instead, could it be that her daughter see’s her mom shiver, scream and frightened with the sight of a dog and so made the correlation that dogs are scary? When you’re having a bad day, your child can pick this up through your behaviour and reciprocate it. It’s not that children choose to ‘annoy’ you on ‘bad’ days, but rather they’ve been seeing you stress, loose temper and worry, resonating anxiousness in them.
So what’s the take-home message?
Model the characteristics you want to see
Be kind to them, show them how to ‘use their words’ when angry, demonstrate responsibility and leave room for them to mirror that too. Yes, we all may loose it sometimes and shout, yell or scream on a bad day, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t model good values after that. By apologizing you can model room for forgiveness, by explaining your reaction you can model that it’s ok that sometimes feelings are not controlled and by admitting you made a slip-up you can model a concept that is key for all children; everyone makes mistakes sometimes and that’s ok.
Model the values you want to instill
Demonstrate honesty by saying the truth as to why his/her Halloween candy is gone rather than ‘the monster ate them.’ Teach respect by giving it to your child with simple phrases as ‘please’ ‘thank you’ and ‘your welcome.’ Encourage generosity by involving your child in charitable activities as donating toys or clothes together. Most importantly, model compassion, we easily forget that children reciprocate the emotions they receive, the more love we give them, they more love they can offer themselves first then those around them.
Know when YOU need a time out
You need a break. It’s ok to say it and its definitely ok to have it! Parenting can be draining sometimes and it’s essential that you take care of yourself first before you can give to others. So refuel yourself with what energizes you to keep going; a warm bath, a coffee with a friend or hit the gym, whatever it is you owe yourself that!