Someone once said, ‘The most noticeable impact you will have on your child, comes from your most unnoticeable behaviour’. What does this mean?
At a basic level it means that your children will likely mimic your mannerisms, characteristics and idiosyncrasies.
Have you ever noticed your child looking at you leaning on a door frame, and then they awkwardly lean on the door frame too?
It’s gorgeous and hilarious, and by mimicking the person they admire and love the most (their parent’s), they learn what it means to be just like them. What it means to be a grown up.
On a deeper level, this quote also means that how you interpret an event and subsequently choose to respond to it will be how they respond to the event.
If you get frustrated over a fairly common occurrence, stubbing your toe on the leg of the table for example, and you cry out and rub your toe, your child learns through observation that this is an appropriate response to stubbing their own toe and they, in turn, will respond similarly.
If, on other hand, you get angry and kick, hit or push the table, your child learns this is an appropriate response to stubbing their toe. You will later probably also see this response in other situations such as when your child is getting frustrated with a toy – they will kick, hit and throw the toy away.
Let’s look at another example.
You are getting annoyed at the traffic. You swear and shout ‘you bl**dy idiot’ when someone cuts you off. You believe it is a fairly warranted response after all, the other driver could have caused an accident and you have the children in the car.
Two days later, you hear your son shout at their sister, ‘you bl**dy idiot’ when she knock over his block tower. Where has he heard that, you think to yourself? Your presumably most unnoticeable behaviours, are actually the most noticeable to your children.
But it’s not all your responses to negative emotions that your child will mimic. They will also copy how you respond to positive events.
When you laugh, when you show empathy, when you show affection to your loved ones, when you are speaking kindly to others, when you talk positively- your child is watching you when you do these things, and they will do these things too.
This is why we cuddle our partners in front of our children, why we speak positively about ourselves when we look in the mirror, why we make time for others, and why we talk positively without judgement to strangers.
If we as parents, want to raise emotionally intelligent children, who are happy, empathic, loving, giving and positive, then we need to be all these things first.
But I get it.
It’s hard being all these things every day of the week, particularly when the parenting struggles are relentless and overwhelming.
Many parents have an idea of what kind of parent they want to be and family they want to raise, but the stress of having children, the sleep deprivation, and the juggle of work/family/running a household can mean parents aren’t responding in ways they would like to.
The good news is, research has shown that acute, irregular episodes of responding negatively isn’t going to impact your child for the rest of their life. In other words, hitting the table in front of your child because you’ve stubbed your toe, or swearing at traffic doesn’t mean they are going to hit their toys and swear at others for the rest of their child and adult lives.
Rather it is what you do everyday, of every week, of every month, and it is what you do regularly, often, and most of the time, that will make the difference.
It will be those positive times that make your child feel as though they are the centre of your universe that will stand out to them.
So how do you ensure you’re demonstrating what is is be emotionally intelligent when you’re struggling as a parent? Here are some common strategies.
How to be emotionally intelligent in front of your child
- Take a deep breath before you react.
Your child hits you across the face. You hate that! It’s a button you know you react to. While you feel like you need to yell at them, take a deep breath, take five if you need to, then explain how their action makes you feel.
“When you hit me like that, it hurts and makes me feel sad. Please stop“.
- Count to ten, twenty, or 100 before you react.
A great strategy if you’re easily aggravated. Count to whatever number you need to to calm down, or if you prefer, leave the room and wait until you’ve calmed down, then return and respond calmly and controlled.
- Reframe your negative interpretation of the event into something positive.
You’re tired of asking your child to pick up their toys after they’ve finished. You realise that children have different ideas of when they’re finished playing. It’s possible that your child is moving between a number of different sets of toys and that it doesn’t hurt to leave them out like that for a while, particularly if he’s happy playing like this.
- Try a different tactic.
You can’t get your child to clean their teeth. It’s frustrating as he needs to go to school. Suddenly, you remember the profound impact of pretend play. You grab the little toy dinosaur and change tactics.
“Hey James, it looks like T-Rex needs to clean his teeth. Would you like to clean his teeth while you clean yours?”
- Remove the stressor.
Constantly asking your child to clean up their toys is a big stressor for you. There is no better time than right now to organise your child’s toys into tubs so that playing and clean up time is straight forward.
Bring the tubs into the lounge room to play with the toys, once your child is finished playing, fill the tubs back up and you put them away. Easy!
Over time, the more you are able to respond with emotional intelligence to events, and the more you are able to express your emotions in an appropriate, respectful and socially accepted manner, the easier it is to respond in the way you want to in front of your child.
When we respond with calmly, respectfully and emotional intelligence to our children, our words give children confidence and resilience.
It is up to us as parents to help our children organise their emotions. To help teach them how to interpret and respond to events not only through what we say but how we behave.
And arguably, this latter component, how we behave when we think no one notices, will have the most noticeable impact of all.
The cost of Module One is only $7 AUD (that’s the price of two coffees), the positive impact it will have on your relationship with your child is worth 10, 000 coffees!
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