Children are very perceptive when it comes to picking up things from their surroundings. Sometimes, this means that they adopt bad behaviors by looking at others. This can be a complicated situation, especially if the grownups around them reinforce this kind of behavior by making them repeat it just for laughs.
My 3-year-old daughter is extremely quick to pick up things. Moreover, she keeps on repeating it until it stops fascinating her. As a result of this, I’ve had a tough time trying to get my family to be mindful of what they say in front of her and not teach her bad words just because they find it amusing. Yes, I’ve been told that I’m taking this way too seriously. So what ended up happening was that they kept doing what they wanted anyway.
After weeks of stressing over this, I decided to reach out to one of my colleagues whose kid was 13. Knowing that they had made it out of “that stage”, I spoke to her about it. Here’s what I discovered:
It is natural and okay to be concerned about your child picking up unpleasant behaviors. That’s because when your kid grows a little older, these things will stop being cute and funny and could land them in trouble. But even though my daughter finds it easy to learn things from her surroundings, she is too small to understand why a particular behavior is bad. All she knows is that my family and friends find it quite funny. And trust me when I say this when it comes to children, nothing reinforces an action as much as laughter. Laughing at your kid saying a cuss word out loud is a sure-shot way of getting them to repeat it.
On the one hand, since your child is still young, they have a lot of time to slowly unlearn and forget these bad behaviors and replace them with other positive ones. But on the other hand, there is no stopping them when it comes to repeating a particular behavior they may have picked up. That is why it is more important to reason with the adults in their surroundings.
Is It Just “Harmless” Entertainment?
It can be argued that my daughter mimicking these behaviors wasn’t causing harm to anyone. For some parents, cuss words do not count as something off-limits. One can make the case about cursing being a natural aspect of the language we use and that we shouldn’t put restrictions on using such words.
But this instance of harmless fun can lead to more problems later because children do not have an innate understanding of the appropriate time or place for a particular behavior. And so it can be a bit embarrassing when your kid repeats this behavior in front of everyone. We need to keep in mind that children are extremely malleable and can be molded by the kind of behavior they come into contact with. Instead of teaching them unpleasant things, it is better to invest this time to help them learn more healthy and positive behaviors.
Setting Boundaries As A Parent
Another thing troubling me was that my family did not respect my boundaries as the parent of a 3-year-old. I was concerned that this could lead to bigger disagreements in the years to come. Simply put, I did not appreciate their interference with the way I wanted to bring up my child. So the first thing I did was to let them know how I felt about this. Of course, it is not an easy conversation to have at home. But making sure that everyone in your family is clear about the boundaries set by you when it comes to your kid helps avoid unnecessary conflicts in the future.
A Guide To Behavior Change — The Grownup Version
Sometimes, it is not kids who may need a behavior change, but the grownups around them. Since my family had dismissed my earlier requests, I decided to go about things a little differently. Here are some steps that I adopted to tackle behavior change:
- Name it to tame it – This first thing is to identify what exactly it is that’s going wrong. In my case, the problem was that my family refused to listen to me when I repeatedly asked them not to teach my daughter bad behaviors.
- Lay down your expectations clearly: I wanted them to stop teaching her cuss words.
- Fix the consequences: If your family does not respect your rules, make sure certain consequences are faced. It could be that you take your child into a different room or go for a walk. But the important thing is that you keep your child away in a situation where your family does not follow the rules you have laid down. The point is to reduce your child’s exposure to behaviors you do not want them to learn.
- Be firm: It could be so that your family may not take this seriously until they realize that you have firmly set your parenting boundaries and won’t budge on the issue.
Setting new boundaries can be a difficult thing. Many families may consider having poor boundaries as a sign of being close-knit. So telling them how you would like to raise your child can be a long drawn one. When you first bring up this topic into the conversation, there may be some members of the family who are more open to the idea. Reach out to them and discuss why this decision means so much to you. Convincing them can be of great help because then you would at least have some support in bringing about this change.
Some Parting Words
I know that all of this can seem quite difficult to pull off, but here’s something I want you to know: You have the greatest influence on your child. This means that the way you behave ends up being the primary example for your kid to follow and adopt. So setting your parenting boundaries with other adults enables your child to learn that you do not approve of certain behaviors. Bringing about behavior change can feel like a lot of work. But in the end, this can make a huge difference in ensuring that your child grows up learning more positive behaviors.