Ladies....when I say 'modeling' I am not talking about putting on our most fabulous, and fanciest outfits then strutting down our hallway from the bathroom.
When I say 'modeling' I am stating that the way we teach our children shapes who they will inevitably become. If you have two kids, or watch your child play with their friends, stop and watch both of their behaviour. It is quite fascinating to see how they interact with each other if you haven't already noticed. My two-year-old copies everything my five-year-old does, even if it doesn't apply to her (because she doesn't know any better). The other day, my five-year-old told me that she was excited about her ski race and then ran to get her clothes on. My two-year-old mimicked the exact behaviour and genuinely believed that she had a race. If my girls argue (rarely but it happens) the argument is like watching a redo of a clip— the other one will immediately do the same thing as their sister.
Have you ever heard your child repeat something you say, (let's take the word $HIT as an example because I know we all have our quirky words) and you are like "$HIT I have to stop saying that”? It is like you just got stepmom or mom slapped in the face.
Rude awakening, I like to call it.
Let's go a layer deeper.
If you were a fly on the wall watching your interactions with people or your personal items how would you view it? What would you see and hear from an outside perspective? You might think you have been a pretty darn good role model. A pat on the back is well deserved. Yes—go ahead and pat yourself on the back for all of the great things you do for your children! However, everyone has work to do (some more than others for whatever reason). In the moments that you aren’t proud of, where you just cannot stop yourself from going to the places of anger, frustration, overwhelmed, etc., those are the times that you are then faced with regret, guilt, and sadness for how you/we may have handled the situation.
Have you heard of the term "rager" or “raging" before? The dictionary defines it as a person or thing that rages in anger. Count us out of that category, right? Ummm…maybe not. If you have ever yelled at your child or another person, this might be considered raging behaviour. Does that make you a "RAGER" per se? No, definitely not. In the eyes of your children, however, they might feel the fear of that of being faced with a "rager" when they are being yelled at, etc. If this raging behaviour occurs over and over again, this can contribute to small traumas.
Small traumas grouped together can lead to one big trauma. There are plenty of adults that experience nervous breakdowns or depression-like feelings and don't understand where these negative feelings come from. They might think that growing up they lived a relatively normal life without any intense trauma such as the loss of a parent or divorce for example. Little do they know that all of these tiny raging moments they experienced added up, and finally had to come out somehow—cue in blowing horn here! You get the point.
Here are three tools we have used that have helped us to be better model for our children:
1. TIME OUT!
We are so quick to put our children in time-outs to give them a break when we think they need it. I am going to guess our children probably would put us in a time-out if they could. Have you ever thought of taking a time out for yourself? Go a step further by telling your children that you are *insert feeling here* and need a time-out. This is good modeling as you are sharing your feelings with your children and teaching them that adults are not superhuman.
Too many adults have been bred to be tough and suppress their emotions. This can lead to issues that, over time, can build and blow like a volcano. Perpetuating this practice of bottling up your emotions can lead to poor choices that, over time, could force you down a road of depression, an unhappy and unhealthy relationship, loss of job, and worst of all—your children learning this to be normal behaviour. History then begins to repeat itself.
I am not saying this one little change prevent all of this negative behaviour and potential scenarios, but it can be added to your toolbox to help you to better model.
2. KISS AND TELL!
Show your kids the love between the two of you! Children need to see love in order to know how to express love, and in turn to feel loved. There's a reason why they say, 'love is the answer', 'love can health the world', and any other cheesy quote about love that you just love! Show your children the tender moments of vulnerability. Show them sweet displays of affection like holding hands with your partner, kissing for no reason, rubbing each other's shoulders. You need to show them how to love in a way that includes all feelings so they know how to communicate any emotion with love in mind. By showing your children that you and your partner take pride in ensuring you both know that you matter, they will make others feel the same way. Be sure to involve the children in doing nice things for your significant other, this teaches them the complete process of treating the people they love with love!
3. TAKE A BREAK!
Healthy breaks are good for everyone. You need to take care of yourself first before you can take care of others. You know when you are on an airplane and they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before helping anyone else? This is a rule you should live by! If you don't take care of yourself first, then no one around you can receive what you have to offer. If you don't make sure that your oxygen mask is on first, you'll fall unconscious as well as the ones you were trying to help first. Think about this one stepmoms!
Suffocating yourself in a scenario long term will not lead to good modeling. Take some time for yourself when necessary to ensure you are the best you that you can be. Go away for an hour, a day, a weekend. If you only can take or need an hour of time for yourself, try to make it a regular occurrence such as a yoga class every week. Make sure your pot is full stepmoms so you have enough to share with those you love!
We hope these tools are helpful for you. They definitely might feel uncomfortable at first but they will benefit your children in so many ways that will carry on to their adult life.