Monkey See, Monkey Hear, Monkey Do

While having a conversation with my youngest son, I recognized a facial expression I know well. Oh my, I do that. 

I remember watching our boys play in their first soccer games when they were each around 4 years old — they’d stick out their tongues while concentrating on their next moves. My husband does that!

I heard my eldest son chatting with his friends recently and saying, “You should really read the label — you never know what’s in a product until you read the ingredients.” That sounds just like me!

Yet I often wonder, are they listening at all? Am I just blowing hot air without anyone taking hold of the words?

The toddler age brought lots of repeated phrases and words. My boys were even on par with both my husband’s Zimbabwean and my American accent. Yes, they listened and repeated.

More recently, I’ve become aware of that listen-and-repeat cycle now that my older son has his driving permit — it’s clear he’s aware of how his parents drive, like whether we stop at stop signs, how closely we obey the speed limit, and how we speak while we’re driving.

As my children have aged, I’ve had many moments where I was sure they were not listening or taking in anything we were teaching them. But then I’d witness the mannerisms, facial expressions, words and phrases, and habits (good or bad) they were seeing in me and my husband. They do soak it in. We are showing them how to be.

One of the most important ways we model to our children is in how we speak about ourselves and others. A friend of mine has always been very self-conscious about her body, regularly stating how fat she thinks she is and criticizing many aspects of her body and self. “Look at the bags under my eyes. My hips are so huge. I have flabby arms. I’m so dumb. I am terrible with directions.”

Despite my reassurances, she still believes her comments to be true. And, sadly, what she says out loud is heard by young ears and is making an impression. Her daughter, at 6 years old, stated, “I’m putting on my skinny jeans today.” And now, at age 13, she is making more and more comments about her appearance that mirror her mom’s.

My advice to my friend (and also to myself) is to speak positively about herself and about others. No one will love everything about themselves all the time. Ideally, we aim for a balanced self-image. Children will pick up on what we say and do — and they’ll think our responses are the norm.

Treat yourself more kindly — say something positive about yourself at least once a day. Your kids will take note and do the same. We are always molding them, even when we don’t realize it. Let’s make a positive impact.

Kim Raubenheimer grew up in Franklin, Massachusetts and lives in Belmont with her husband and two busy teen boys. Kim has been passionate about Health & Wellness since she was in her early 20's. Now in her mid-50's, Kim has an abundance of knowledge from her personal journey and numerous certifications which she’s eager to share (especially with Moms!).  Kim started Your Health Sense in 2001, a Nutrition and Fitness Coaching business, while working full-time as a Print Producer and raising two boys.  Kim understands the challenges of maintaining self-care and now juggles her Nutrition and Fitness business while being a Mom and working part-time for her husband's Managed Services IT company as the Hiring and Compliance manager.