Sometimes I am amazed at how big my little girl (aged 2.5 years) seems when she talks. The reason being that sometimes she actually talks like an adult. Why is that? Why does it sound so familiar? Well, because she talks just like me. Just the other day, I caught her having a pretend conversation on her “phone”. If it weren’t for the toy phone that gave her way, you would actually think for a minute that there is a real live person on the line. She made the perfect pauses, the right amount of “hmm’s” and “acha’s” every now and then. The fact is that whatever she sees, she internalizes and then acts in the same way. As they say, monkey see, monkey do. Children are no different, in that they mimic everything we do on a daily basis.
I have noted that girls are generally more observant than boys, and quick to duplicate the tiniest action that they’ve seen. How many times have you caught your child doing something that you have done, yet they get reprimanded? Is that really fair? And when it comes to things like prayer and fasting, we expect our child to do it, without fail, when we as adults slack ourselves. It doesn’t take a child very long to learn from us, so why do we struggle to teach them at an early age?
The fact is that we struggle because we oftentimes do not model behavior for our children. Instead of telling them, we should show them. Showing them principles of kindness, patience, truth and obedience through our actions. I can’t tell you how many times I have lost patience with my daughters, raised my voice, sounded annoyed or something else terrible. I have missed prayer, delayed prayer, not been productive and many other things that I regret now because I know that they are watching me. It is probably the heaviest burden we [parents] carry on our shoulders. Our impressionable little ones look to us for every little lesson, and like tiny sponges, they absorb everything we do.
So, in an effort to improve, I thought I’ll start by coming up with three simple ways I can model better behavior for my daughters.
1. Pray on time
Number one is the simplest, yet probably the most challenging. Prayer is our core, fundamental action that distinguishes us as Muslims. Yet, we don’t take the time out everyday to pray on time. My daughters will not understand the importance of prayer, if I don’t. Therefore, I will start by making a stronger effort not just to pray, but to pray on time. If you pray at home, ensure that your little ones are with you. I promise you it will stay with them.
2. Speaking with Kindness
Having two toddlers certainly does test your patience and endurance in ways like no other. I have noticed that many times, due to the stresses of having small children, I unintentionally snap at my daughters. After this happens, of course, I feel like the worst/rudest mother in the world. Yet it happens again and again. In order to actually make a change, I have to make a conscious effort to speak more kindly to my daughters, no matter the situation. In addition to speaking kindly towards my children, I’ll also make an effort to speak kindly to strangers.
3. Be More Present
It’s no surprise that there are numerous distractions in our lives now, which take away from us being completely present when we are with our children. Speaking as a stay-at-home mother, I am with my children all of the time. However, I can’t really say that I’m present for the entire time that I am with them. Most of the day I am trying to juggle cleaning up, cooking, wiping, organizing, and in between that I’m feeding, diapering, bathing, and when I’m not doing any of those things, I’m using my phone/TV/laptop when all my children really want to do is play with me. The time that we have right now is precious, and the moments we share are quite teachable, if I allow them to be. I will make an effort to stop, put down the phone, put down the dishes, and try to be present for my children.
At the end of the day, we should be able to say that we are doing our very best, when it comes to being role models for our children. I know we all feel that we are doing our best, in the stress and chaos of it all, but we could always do just a little bit more.
What are some ways you can model good behavior for your children? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below.
Sumra Hassan is a full-time mother of two, and lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughters Ridha Zaynab and Rabab Fatima. When she isn’t busy raising her girls, she loves to spend time blogging about motherhood, travel and recipes. You can visit her blog here: Sweet Dreamer