Be a Role Model! They Are Always Watching!
By: Tara Zoumer (A Nanny Placed by The Nanny Authority)
Walking around the grocery store with 10-year-old Jenny, I say hello to Martin stocking the vegetables. “Jen, we need potatoes, carrots, and beets, make sure they are organic and throw them in the cart. Ask Martin if you can’t find something.” Next standing at the butcher, “Hey Jason, this is Jenny. The one I told you I cook for. How are the girls doing?” Jason smiles, and offers her a sample of smoked salmon he says his kids love. Jenny shyly waves and says, “Thank you.” As we check out and head to the car with our groceries for family dinner, Jenny looks up at me and says, “Tara, I want to be like that when I grow up.”
“Like what Jen?” I ask.
“Like you, talking to people you see. You know everyone at the store. It was nice,” she smiles.
“It’s nice to know the people you see all the time. I like it too.”
That night driving home, I realized a profound truth about kids that parents, teachers and most adults (myself included) often forget: they are ALWAYS watching you! For months before our routine grocery shopping trip, I had been under the impression that it was my words about how to treat others that was the primary source of my teaching. Lo and behold, the moments when we want to impart wisdom rarely are the moments that stick. But why is that? Why didn’t my countless motivational “be a good person” speeches work? Then I remembered how people actually learn, and it suddenly became clear.
How Children Learn From You
Human beings are strange and beautiful creatures. We learn through the complex process of observation. We hear tones when others seem afraid, angry, or joyful. We look for facial expressions, body postures, and movements to ensure what people say and what they feel are aligned. We absorb sensation when we touch one another with force or kindness, or even when watching the way others touch one another. We feel close when we embrace the smells of being sweaty after soccer practice or freshly out of the shower. We are uniquely built to experience each other on a multidimensional level, and it often goes entirely unnoticed.
How I Learned from My Children
The next day going into work, it hit me: she’s been watching all of us this entire time. Suddenly, like a rapid flip chart, our many conversations and experiences flashed before my mind. However, instead of looking at how she behaved, I analyzed my own actions. How did I best provide an example of the lessons I claimed to be valuable for her life? If I was my own teacher I would have given mostly A’s, a few B’s, and some unfortunate C’s. The fact is, we all can be better people. The cliché finally clicked in my heart: the kids of today and tomorrow ARE watching us.
Realizing that our small actions add up to a big impact have changed the way I work with Jenny, her family, and even in life. If I tell her be kind, I need to be polite with strangers. If I tell her she matters, I make sure to hug her hello and smile every time. When I tell her that I don’t have all the answers, I show her what it looks like to try. When she asks me why we have to do all this, I tell her, “because your little sister is watching.”