What I have Learned While Working With Young Children

August 20, 2013
There are a lot of things that I have learned from working with young children that have made me a better person, but there are a couple of things that I have realised recently that have made me more aware as a parent, especially because I see it in my own child.

He copies me when I take self portraits for the blog. Set up the camera, go to the wall.

1. Your child is essentially a miniature version of you.

I know I have mentioned something similar to this before, but that was more about being models of the manners that we would like to see in our child. What I'm about to talk about is pretty much the same idea, but on a much deeper scale.

I have noticed that if my son sees my husband do something -- even once -- he will imitate him almost immediately. He's done it a few times with some things that I've done, but I've really noticed it with things my husband does. It could be anything from a specific phrase that we say -- like when I told my husband to pick up the towels on the floor -- to an action that we take -- like when we throw a ball or toy, or clap our hands at the dog to make him stop doing something. Our child is right there copying what we do.

I don't know if most parents have noticed that their child is a mini version of themselves before, but usually if there is an unwanted behaviour I have found that fingers are pointed at the people and places other than the home that the child goes to regularly. I don't know how many times a parent has told me that they don't use curse words at home and their child must have gotten them from another child. I will openly admit that I curse around my child -- especially in the car. I know I shouldn't, and I really should check myself be he starts picking those words up, but I admit it. I know that it's something that I need to work on because I don't want that kind of language used casually by my child.

The younger years -- ages 1-5 -- are such important years where a lot of habits are ingrained into our personalities. After the age of 5, any habits that we have picked up are pretty much there for life, and it is incredibly difficult to change them. The younger years are also the time when we, as parents, are the most influential on our children. We are their world, and that is why they copy us and want to be with us all the time, and chances are if you call someone a "moron" while driving the car then your child is going to start calling people "morons" as well.

2. Does it really matter? Then let it go.

I learned several years ago from a behaviourist that used to come to my work place that we all have expectations of what a child should do, how they should play, how they should treat others, and how they should behave in general. But he taught me that sometimes our rules are pointless; he taught me to look at certain situations and say "Does it really matter?"

"Does it really matter that the ball is not staying on the grass area and being taken to the sandbox?" or "Does it really matter that my child is jumping in a puddle and isn't wearing rubber boots?" and when you really think about it, the answers to these questions are no. If it's not hurting anyone, or hurting the child, then is it something you should really worry about?

This way of thinking was something that I was working really hard on as a teacher before I became a parent, and now that I am a parent it's something that I regularly try my best to practice. If what my child is doing is not an imminent threat to his health and well-being, then what does it hurt to let him have control over the paint while he's doing an art project.

It's hard to let go sometimes, but it's important for him to learn things on his own and, you know what, I feel a lot more relaxed when I'm not that parent that's trying to control every aspect of my child's daily life. When I'm relaxed, everyone else around me is a lot more relaxed too.

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