When my daughter went to Kindergarten three years ago, I quickly got to know the personality of her teacher. Not because I spent a lot of time with the teacher, not because we were friends, and not even because I had met her on Back-to-School night. I got to know her because my daughter began mimicking her.
Like the age-old saying goes: Monkey See, Monkey Do.
My then five-year-old would come home from school, go straight to her room, and immediately set up her “classroom.” She would pull out her easel, lay out her papers, and force her brothers to be her students. She would sing songs and use catchy phrases to bring her distracted students back to attention. Her afternoon play activity evolved over time, including very specific tones of voice and phrases that I knew she didn’t come up with on her own. It wasn’t until I attended the first class party that I realized what was going on: my daughter had memorized her teacher’s voice, expressions, wording, and actions and was taking them on as her own. Monkey see, Monkey do.
My first inclination was to judge her teacher. Some of the tones I heard coming from my daughter were not very positive, and I could tell you exactly which kids got in trouble the most based on the names I heard repeated day after day in my living room. However, I quickly realized that I am in no place to judge because I am exactly like her teacher, going about my day and responding to the situations around me without taking into account that little eyes are watching.
If you were to follow my daughter around while she plays pretend, you would learn a lot about me, too. You would learn that I am on my phone a lot and that it is never far from me. You would hear how I use a high pitched voice to talk to my youngest son (always hoping that it will make his ears work better). You would see that I almost always have a cup of water nearby and that I often say “Those Boys!” in a sarcastic tone when my two middle boys do something that drives me crazy. You wouldn’t have to spend time with me to learn these things; you would just have to watch my daughter play. Monkey See, Monkey Do.
The magnitude of these little eyes watching has weighed heavily on me lately, and has made me think deeply about the things I do and say. If I’m going to be watched and mimicked, ultimately shaping who my daughter becomes in life, I want the things I do and say, as well as the way I interact and respond to others, to be life-giving.
So, I have resolved to be more intentional with my words and actions.
I have started leaving my phone in the other room. I am trying to pick up a book during the day and read for a few minutes. I am attempting to take a deep breath before I speak to my boys about a frustrating incident. I am looking for ways to point out my struggles, yet highlight how I desire to persevere anyway.
Because if my daughter is going to do the things I do and say the things I say, I want them to be meaningful.
I want her words to be full of grace, her actions to be full of love, and her view of herself to be realistic, yet confident. And it all starts with me. Monkey See, Monkey Do.
Have you noticed your kids mimicking your actions? How do you use this as a teachable time to mold your kids in your home?