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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Swear It's Not Funny!

(as seen in the Daily Review Atlas)


As I've spent the last thirteen years working with families and young children I have always felt privileged when I've shared in some awesome parenting moments. Moms and dads have allowed me to witness their baby's first steps or first words, we've celebrated the first time mom, er I mean, baby slept through the night and those treacherous first days of school.

I am so thankful for these times and will always cheerish those moments.

However, for every quality instance a family has shared with me there have been a handful of awkward ones as well. Like when a family dog urinated on my home visit bag or a child mistook my purse for the bag of toys, "Miss Stephanie, what's this big band-aid for?" (can you guess what he pulled out?!).

Most of these moments have been laughable mishaps albeit one: the swearing child.

When a toddler drops an F-bomb or a hearty D@mn-it every embarrassed mother drops her jaw in fake astonishment, puts her hand to her chest and says something along the lines of, "Oh my! I have NO idea where he heard that!"

A-hem. Yeah right! He heard it from you and the other very important grownups in his life. How do I know? Because research tells us kids never say things they don't hear. It's true. Your preschooler will never ask to borrow your encyclopedia unless he has heard you use that word. Likewise they'll never tell you off unless they've heard that same slew of obscenities.



Experts tell us all early language learning begins receptively. That is why we check infants to make sure their ears are functioning. If a child is born with a hindered ability to hear but with perfectly capable vocal cords, he will only be able to speak that which is hears. We know this is true because a baby's first words are usually Mama, Dada, Baba (bottle), No and the family pet. Why? Because these are the words that they have heard over and over since the day they were born.

Simply put, our young children learn what to say from us. And it doesn't stop there. Many of our children actions are mirrors of our actions as well. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was cooking dinner at the stove. My 7 year old twin daughters were texting each other. I really thought nothing of it when I allowed them to commandeer some old broken phones we had in our junk drawer but I was utterly amazed as I listened to them exchange coffee dates, recipes and blog ideas over texts.

I could have been having that exact same conversation on any given day! In fact I probably already did! My mind was blown as I witnessed my little mini-me's acting and sounding just like I do everyday! Truth is it was a little disheartening.

Is this what they think of me? Is this the substance of a life they witness?

Listen I'm not one to be inducted into any sainthood for parents any time soon (and by soon I mean ever!) but I thank goodness my twins weren't at the table swearing or gossiping on their pretend phones.

May we never forget children do as we do and say what they hear. They cannot help it; we are their role models. So whether you welcome the responsibility or not, it is a burden we must be aware of. When you stress about money, your children pick up on it. When you fret and fear you're modeling that way of life for your child. When you engage in surly language or reckless behavior you had better be aware that your child is not only watching but they are waiting to imitate the one they emulate. Instead we must live bravely and responsibly so that we may we raise children who grow up to be valiant and kind not with the lingering taste of a mouthful of soap. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!




Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and a mother to 5 incredibly imprintable children. She rues the day her twins ask her for their own smart phones. You can reach her at ssikorski@mr238.org




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