It’s one of those old adages we’ve heard time and time again. And it’s one of the more accurate ones. The only problem is, sometimes we forget that we provide the environment for our children.
Take a second to think about the environment you provide for your kids. I’m not talking about the one you strive to provide. Not the one you tell people you provide. But, the environment you actually provide. Y’know, when you think no one is looking. It’s okay: we all let our guards down from time to time. Most of us do it without even knowing it. But the problem is that people are looking. They’re the little miniature ones following you around the house. And they’re just absorbing every little bit of environment that you provide.
One of the things that made me realize this? When my sweet, innocent, beautiful daughter asked me if I heard “that sound.” “What sound?” I ask. She replies “The call of the wild, whooping wooly-bird!” Which was followed by a bodily function. Yep. I know exactly where she picked that one up.
I am chock full of bad habits. One of my biggest is I happen to be a very sarcastic person. Or, as, as my wife would say. This is totally a product of my father’s environment. And, now, Nos. 2 and 3 are developing quite the sarcastic wit of their own. The problem with my, and now my kids’, sarcasm is that it is completely counterproductive. There have been numerous times when I’ve caught myself, after handling a problem in my family’s sarcastic way, feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing but belittling my kid. It’s not exactly a trait that I want them to carry on, so I’m working on it.
There’s also the other environment traits that our kids pick up: Eating habits, how we treat people, how we handle money, how we keep our homes, what we watch, how we talk, etc. It can be overwhelming. We can teach our kids all we want. But the things they really pick up is what they see, which scares me because people do all kinds of messed up things when they think people aren’t looking.
A few years ago, I was downtown for the 4th of July and heard a woman who was quite inebriated talking to her seven-year-old daughter and dropping a few racial slurs. Actually, a lot of racial slurs. Not exactly an environment trait that most parents would want their child to pick up. I remember having to explain to my own kids that those aren’t words that we use.
Most of us want the best for our kids. And the quest for a good environment for our kids is tough. There’s no possible way we can shield them from all the negative influences in the world. The best we can do is to explain why we don’t adopt those negative influences into our own lives.
I personally try very hard to lead by example until a point in my kids’ lives that they have developed their own environments that, hopefully, will be devoid of racism, counter productive sarcasm or major negativity in general. At which point I can go back to my pre-kid-having bad habits. Then my kids will be mature enough to figure out on their own why Dad has “all of a sudden” developed the mouth of a sailor.