Most children reflect their parentsí behavior

By JUDY LYDEN, Scripps Howard News Service

Why do some children act up and out and upside down while others are paragons of virtue? Well, look at the parents. Parental behavior is a magnificent window onto the childís. A child has to learn his behavior someplace, and the most influential factor in a childís actions is taught by the family.

For the most part, personality is a learned behavior. It starts in early childhood and develops at home, then is turned loose on the world. So what are we turning loose these days?

Cassiel always listens. You can count on him to listen to nearly anything and repeat it back ó with interest. He always knows what the game plan is, who is in charge and what heís supposed to do. So does his younger sister.

Now look at Mom and Dad. They are the first to read messages sent home from day care, the first to respond to their childís needs and to the ordinary expectations of classroom teachers and providers.

Darrelanne, on the other hand, rarely listens, and loses interest after the first sentence. She never answers a question; in fact, she doesnít even know a question has been asked. She rarely knows what she is supposed to do, where she is supposed to be or whom to go to if she needs an adult.

You can ditto Darrelanneís parents. They never know anything about their childís life. They are too late, too early, too much, too little and too often not at all. Field trip? What field trip? Pictures? They never even know if Darrelanne brought a coat or not.

Fergus is a very loud child. He screams nearly every sentence he utters. He slams the chairs, talks out all the time. When Mom comes to pick him up, the car radio can be heard blocks away. No wonder the habit of speech screams just to be heard over the racket his mother is making.

Rules donít impress Marcylyn because the rules donít impress Mom and Dad. She must be the thrill and chill of every sentence anyone utters and becomes disruptive, selfish and intolerant of others.

Aralea, on the other hand, plays by the rules. She is generous, intelligent and tolerant of everyone. She does the best work, plays well with others and is helpful to teachers. When Aralea is complimented, guess who is right there to intercept the pass?

Now compare the parents. One set commands the attention of others whenever they appear, disrupting whatever is going on without exception. The other set is perfectly thoughtful and participates beautifully in the childís life.

Parenthood was designed to enable children to watch and copy. Itís a remarkable teaching tool that works every time. So the question to ask is:

What does the child see and what is he copying?

This is a great time to look at our children and ask what changes we need to make in our own lives this coming year for their sakes. Successful changes in the parentís behavior will be passed down to the child. You can bet on it.

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to jlyden@evansville.net.

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