Children are most impressionable during their toddler years. Toddlers soak up their world like sponges because although we may think they are unaware in the midst of their playing and running around, their eyes and ears are alert. In actuality, they are observing everything we do and say, especially if the behavior is done repeatedly in front of them. Toddlers will mirror what grown-ups do, whether it is positive or negative behavior. It is so important to be positive role models for our toddlers because we want them to grow to become good, honest, and healthy individuals.
This realization did not dawn on me until one day my daughter was trying to put a diaper on her bear. I wasn’t paying close attention to what she was saying until my ears shot up to familiar words. My daughter repeated almost exactly what I usually say to her when I change her diaper! And she knew the exact steps to changing a diaper, which is something that I had never shown her how to do! It amazed me how observant she was.
Another incident was when I was sitting in front of the mirror applying make-up to my face with a sponge wedge. My daughter came to me and asked for a wedge. All of a sudden, she started rubbing the wedge all over her face in the same fashion that I was. I watched as my little girl mimicked my every move.
There have been numerous other times when my daughter has repeated my words or behaviors, and each time I witnessed them, I am always relieved that they are positive words and behaviors. My husband and I make sure that we don’t yell or use profanity or engage in any negative behavior around our children. This is precisely the reason why. My three-year-old is aware of how mommy and daddy behave. As long as she is within earshot, she will pick up anything that we say or do.
This makes me wonder about those parents who do engage in negative talk and behaviors around their toddlers. Can you really blame a two- or three-year-old for shouting profanity or acting as if she is holding a cigarette? Or what about the four-year-old who, while she pretends to be cooking in her kitchen, she also pretends to talk on a cell phone while pretending to hold a cigarette? I am not trying to put down parents who do these things in front of their toddlers. I just simply want to point out the impact we have on our children’s lives. We make a very huge impression on them, and the impressions we make can sometimes become their habits and behaviors when they get older.
As parents, we all strive to be the best we can be to our toddlers, especially in such an early stage of their lives. However, we are also human as well, so it is inevitable that we will screw up more than enough times. But two-, three-, and four-year-olds do not know the difference between right and wrong, positive and negative. In their eyes, we are their heroes and their role models. So if we are to be examples to them, don’t we owe it to our toddlers to be positive ones? Aren’t we the ones to guide them, to help pave the way toward honest and happy lives?
So parents, please take the time to assess your lives and behaviors. At least for the sake of your toddlers. We are not expected to be perfect. However, we are expected to do our best and be the best that we can be, because essentially, as parents, it is not about us but about the growth and development of our impressionable little ones.