Kids learn by imitation. Anyone who has spent time with children has a cringe-worthy memory of a child repeating something they shouldn’t, or copying behaviors inappropriate for their age. The unfortunate truth is that environment rubs off on children, and when it comes down to the question of nature vs. nurture, children’s personalities, beliefs, and attitudes are just as affected by what goes on around them as anything in their DNA. After all, monkey see, monkey do.
Watching your language is extremely important around kids, especially young children and toddlers. They are just beginning to understand the world around them, and are acquiring language at an unthinkably fast rate. In fact, their language acquisition as toddlers is unrivaled compared to any other time in their life. Not only will they repeat words they hear, they will categorize them accordingly. If daddy always says “damn” when he is angry, so will your little sweetheart. If she is forcefully told not to say it, she might categorize it as a word that gets a reaction or attention (even negative attention is still attention).
Tone is also important. Children who witness a lot of yelling become yellers, just as those scolded repeat the words and inflections they hear. Believe it or not, this carries with children into adulthood as their understanding of appropriate communication.
It may be that you are addicted to nothing stronger than your cell and Facebook. But kids pick up on addictions, and mirror behaviors of the adults around them with an almost singular focus. There is a reason why parents who smoke inevitably have children who pick up the habit. The same is true of parents who abuse drugs. These children are not only statistically more likely to develop an addiction; they will experiment at younger ages than children who do not bear witness to addictions in their home.
Be careful what message you are giving your children about your personal habits or obsessions. If you smoke and wish to discourage your children from ever taking a drag, sit them down at a young age and explain to them not only about the dangers of smoking, but also how much you wish you had never picked up a cigarette. Continue to have the conversation with them frequently, so they understand that even though they SEE you doing it, it doesn’t mean it a good choice for them. If you have an addiction it may be time to sort it out once and for all with ups and downs in life courses. This rehab help step to recovery will also rub off on your child, but in a positive way.
Author Bio: Annette Hazard is a blogger that writes about family issues. She wrote this article with Stanley Martinson.