A few days ago I was playing with Claire in the living room. As usual our dog, Rocky wants in on the action so he forces his huge head in between Claire and I in order to “play”. I usually shoo Rocky away but he is persistent and my patience fades quickly. Finally after several times of shooing Rocky away I whacked him upside the head with a book Claire and I were reading. It was a quick reaction. Whack the dog, and we are back to reading.
The whole thing took 3 seconds.
Claire saw me whack Rocky. Then, she turned and looked at me and began to whack the dog with her book. Rocky ran away and Claire chased him, laughing the entire time as she whacked him upside the head. For the next half hour I am trying to keep Claire from whacking the dog with her book, shoe and anything else she gets her hands on. I distract her, avert her attention and even try to bribe her with food and juice. Finally, Claire is able to focus on other things and leaves the dog alone. Rocky stayed downstairs the rest of that day.
You always hear people say that children are like sponges and suck up all they see and hear. I believe it and am aware of it, so I try do whatever I can to be a good example. Clearly I failed in this instance. After this incident I began to reflect on all the other things that I do that are just “reactions”. Some of my reactions are great, and others not so much. It is difficult to try and change these reactions, because they are just that—reactions. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing them.
One thing that I discovered in all of this is that my daughter is watching and hearing all that I do. What she sees and hears isn’t filtered as a reaction that I can’t help, or as a calculated response I meant to do. Claire simply sees and hears it all. Claire sees my great moments and the moments I chose to settle; when I pray or chose not to pray; she watches when I treat her mother with respect or snap at her; when I talk well about others or criticize; when I eat well or stuff my face with junk. Claire sees, hears and she responds by doing as I do. All it takes is one example, one action or reaction and it is processed and imitated. 3 seconds and I either have a great new habit established or I’m spending half an hour telling her that she shouldn’t do that.