Defining your child’s behaviours through everything you do

You may believe your child takes no notice of what you say, but they take everything in, even when you think they are ignoring you or are otherwise occupied. 

You don’t need to be talking TO your child for them to take it all in – the good and the bad

If your child hears disparaging comments about people because of their race, religion, gender or physical or mental abilities they are being taught intolerance, bigotry and hatred. 

However, children who are surrounded by adults who are generally helpful are likely to be sensitive and altruistic when it comes to others, including their own children. If they see you stand up for the values you believe in, speaking out against injustice, they are more likely to transfer those lessons to their own everyday experiences. 

Infinitely more powerful than telling them to behave or offering threats if they do not

This consistency between the messages at home and children’s responses decrease through the teenage years, but it is clearly present in early and middle childhood as they continuously look to you to role model how they should behave in the world.  As well as seeking the beliefs and values they should live by. 

Your conscious and mostly unconscious behaviours, habits and reactions are imprinting on them as their most enduring role model. So, be mindful of how and where you attach your strongest emotions, as it is this that will tend to surface, influencing your focus on the world and as a result, how your children view it. 

As they establish a sense of who they are, your child will ‘do as you do’, far more often than they will ‘do as you say’

When you find yourself getting angry, and we all do, take a breath and explain to your child how the situation is making you feel.  Show them how you actively take steps to go back to a state of calm, demonstrating how they can deal with emotional situations or conflicts. 

By being empathetic and emotionally available to your child you can model the behaviours you would like to see.  Show them how you work and play with others.  Talk about different situations as you help your child to see the world through another person’s eyes.

Help them learn how to mentally take another person’s perspective on a situation by noticing situations in which someone needs some help, in their play, in a book or in something you watch together.

Engage with your child calmly, encouraging questions and not ignoring difficult topics

To support your child in managing their feelings, consider how you manage and model your own.  Do you recognise and name your feelings?  Do you address conflicts in responsible and purposeful ways?  Or do unresolved issues often resurface, spilling out over those that least deserve it?  With every comment and action your child is learning about their world and how the people in it behave.  If you are experiencing some difficult behaviours, consider where these influences may be coming from.

This session is taken from our course: The Secure Child

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.


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