Children are always watching. We don't think of it, and don’t need to, when they are babies. As they get older however, it is truly amazing to see what they pick up on, both words and actions.
I remember the first time I notice my son portraying me. He was maybe two years old and we were watching a college football game. The game wasn't going in my teams favor (I'm an Aggie, unfortunately I'm accustomed to this…), so I was standing in front of the TV with my arms folded in frustration. I looked down to my left and saw my son standing next to me. His arms were folded too with the same frustrating look on his face. He had no idea why. He didn't understand football yet or even what winning or losing meant. At the time I thought it was cute and funny. I laughed and gave him a big hug! However, after thinking about it later that night, I realized the significance of what happened. It wasn't just watching a football game together, it was a child learning how to live. When thought about it in this context, you realize weight of each moment spent with your kids. This little human is watching every move, listening to every word to learn how to react and respond to different moments of life.
When thinking about this, it can feel overbearing. It's one thing to be intentional with your words and actions when you are directly spending time with your kids. But they see and hear more than you may think. That means we must live with intentionality. We must live with purpose. We must be on mission, every day, knowing that our children are growing, heavily influenced by our behavior.
For me, this question made me evaluate each aspect of my life. I sat and thought about my daily interactions, habits, thoughts, both when I am with and not with my son. I thought about how I treated people, what the music I listened to was actually saying and the words in which they were saying it. I thought about how I treat and interact with my wife. My son is going to be a husband one day, am I portraying that of a loving and kind husband on a daily basis?
Watching your child mimic your actions, and as they get older your words, highlights miniscule acts that would normally go completely unnoticed in your daily life.
Thought of the day
If your child mimics your unintentional words or actions of today, would you be proud?
I am not the first to have this thought. Here are a couple famous quotes that point to children following actions rather than a father's teachings:
"Every father should remember, one day his son will follow his example, not his advice" - Charles Kettering
"My father didn't tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it." - Clarence Budington Kelland
When we read those, it's surface level and we think 'yeah I need to get better at setting a good example' and scroll on.
However, my challenge is that we be more intentional. Stop and actually think about what those quotes are saying. They are saying, children learn by watching and listening during the unintentional moments.
Review your daily living through the lens of intentionally for the betterment of your children.
If we live with intentionality, we stop relying on the few sought out moments of intentional advice we try to give our children. We teach them daily how to make decisions, how to engage with others, how to honor our spouse, how to react in frustrating situations, how to manage our money, the list goes on. My father didn't tell me that a solid work ethic was important, he showed me. Every time I helped him with a project around the house, we didn't stop when it got dark or we were tired, we stopped when the job was finished. That is a lesson better learned than any intentionally placed words.
No one is perfect. You won't get it "right" every time. Be honest and open with your children in those moments. Then, reset your mind and continue living intentionally. Watch your children mimic your words and actions and be proud.
In The Resolution for Men, the authors talk about the effects your daily actions can have when cultivating a legacy for generations. "Realize that when you speak into your children's ears, you are speaking into the ears of your great-great-grandchildren as well" (p.116).
Leave a proud legacy that starts today with your daily words and actions. Live intentionally.
Be Present. Be Intentional.