Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Children Mimic Us: Be Careful What You Say

During the first two years of a child’s life, especially with regards to language and vocabulary, they learn by osmosis. All the people our children are surrounded by contribute to their language development so early on. Children can pick up habits and language quickly and so much more just by watching and listening to us. For things we don’t want our children to do or say we need to be that much more cognizant of our actions and words.

Many times when our children mimic something we say or do it’s cute or adorable and then we laugh about it. Sometimes, not realizing our children are within an ear reach of us, can copy something we say or do that we wish they would not.

This is especially true for the language we communicate and the way that we treat people. After a long day, stressful time or challenging moment, we may say or do something not realizing our children are around or think that our little ones will forget.

Well, forget, is unlikely.

Since having my daughter I have been much more aware of my language and what I communicate. However, on occasion whenever there has been a stressful moment or a really funny moment with friends and family I might slip up.

As a parent I have taken greater responsibility, especially around my child, not to convey words that I would not want her to say. It is my responsibility, along with my husband, to educate her as best as possible and to provide a good example for her.

And, if your child is anything like mine, a young child’s memory is incredible. What my daughter remembers blows my mind sometimes. Things she remembers from days, weeks or months past still come back into current conversations. So, I have become that much more careful with what I speak and how I convey it.

The same goes true for words that are not technically profane. A good example is the word “stupid.” I absolutely hate this word. The only thing this word accomplishes is to make people feel insecure, uncomfortable, incapable or unable. For people with thick skins this word might roll off their back. My job as a parent is to not only to help my child to grow with confidence, especially should she ever, ever be called this name or worse, but also to teach her that it’s not nice to use this word with others.

Personally, I believe that the word “stupid” needs to be removed from our language all together. While I know that will not happen I will do my best to ensure that my daughter tries not to use this word or convey it to someone else. While I can’t prevent others from using this word around her I will do my best to help Sarah sees why it’s not nice and can hurt people’s feelings.

Recently, I invited, as a guest to Mommy's Point of View to share her ideas on parenting, fellow mom Jennifer Bright Reich, writer, co-founder and editorial director, Momosa Publishing LLC, who manages the blog The MommyMD Guides and now add author as well of her first book The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth.

While I have not yet read her book, I did ask her to share some of her ideas she would like to communicate to parents and it just so happens she had something to say, too, about the word “stupid.”

“We don’t say stupid!” proclaimed Jennifer’s four-year-old son Tyler once during a moment of play. It appears that he overheard her talking with a friend saying this very same thing, and he repeated it. Jennifer said “I didn’t even realize Tyler was paying attention! Tyler looked to be completely absorbed in playing...yet, apparently he was paying attention.”

Jennifer and her husband adopted a zero-tolerance policy for use of this word. Also, any time the word was communicated by her two children she calmly replied, “We don’t say ‘stupid.” Amazingly, this approach worked for Jennifer and her family. Her children have since dropped this word from their vocabulary and are even “quick to point out to family and friends” that they should not say this word either. Jennifer further emphasized, “It is amazing to me how much these little pitchers have big ears even when they don’t appear to be listening.”

Therefore, from my advice and from Jennifer, let’s be extra careful in the language we communicate, especially when we are around our children. We may not think that our kids can hear us even if they are out of sight in another room or if they are distracted by a toy or something else. We need to be alert and on our toes and aware that all we say can indeed be picked up by little ears.

Thanks Jennifer for contributing as a guest on Mommy’s Point of View. And, congratulations on your new book.

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