They’ll say it too
Don't be fooled, kids are always listening.

There’s a meme doing the rounds that highlights names you call your friends, depending on how close you are. Often, adults who are close friends raid each other’s fridges and call each other rude names as a laugh. It’s really funny, except when you realise there’s a child watching.  

Children will repeat everything we say

I have a nickname for one of my best friends. It’s based on a funny event she and I once lived through. It’s hilarious when I call her this, but it stopped being funny the moment my daughter asked why I used it and, checked if it was an appropriate term for a friend. It’s not appropriate, nor a polite reference to make, so I’ve had to stop saying it entirely. Our children witness our friendships and close relationships, more than we realise.

The people we spend time with, as friends, are people our children will spend time with too. Realising that made me reassess a lot of my friendships early on in my child’s life but, now that she’s becoming more in control of her own social life too, it’s making me re-look at how I speak to my friends too.

Children will emulate all the wrong things you do

In a casual setting, round a braai fire or the like, the conversation is always easy and relaxed when you’re spending time with close mates. But put a child in the room and it’s important to be aware that all the wrong things you do will be emulated all over again.

So yes, when I ragged Carl about his too-long fringe, I can’t be surprised when my daughter does the same thing (she hasn’t, but this is a good example). When I jokingly ask a friend if my ‘butt looks big in this’, I have to remember that my daughter could utter the same question to a friend of hers one day. That funny banter and fake teasing is fine when it’s between adults, but children are still learning context, so I’ve stopped ragging Carl about his fringe.

Never say Never

I made a fatal error, once – I assumed that my daughter knew the nuances of context when it came to a joke. So imagine my surprise when she emulated what I did, and it was contextually out of place. It’s my fault, entirely, and luckily something I was able to act on immediately. But that old adage of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ just doesn't cut it at all.

Do as I do

Instead, nowadays, my parenting ways have migrated from a place of ‘teaching’ to ‘example living’. As scary as that seems, it’s actually starting to feel a little bit easier on me. I’m not running around behind an exuberant toddler anymore, and reminding them to wash their hands or say “please”. Instead, my life needs to be a better example for her to learn from, and it’s quickly becoming a far simpler way to live. Here’s to growing up, for her and for me.

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