‘Say sorry when you belch’ scolded the father and the little one promptly said, “but papa, you don’t”! In the adult world, the theory ‘do as I say and not as I do’ – might work, but to a child, living examples mean more than empty axioms. For all its innocence, the young mind, uncluttered by hypocrisy or guile, is very analytical and can go into the root of a matter by a simple question. Every moment his eyes and ears absorb what the environment offers and he emulates the example set. As always, the onus rests on the parents – being the first adults the child comes into contact with.
It’s a pleasure to see well behaved children. The tone they use, their mannerisms, their vocabulary – all reflect the home they come from and their background. When a child misbehaves, it is natural to say ‘how badly trained he is’. He is too young to be held responsible for his actions, which are after all prompted by his instinctive desire to imitate. To a child, the father and mother are models, and he fashions himself on the lines of what he sees in them. As a parent; how do you fare before his innocent scrutiny? Children are very sensitive to tone and its nuances. When you speak to your spouse, your friends, your servants, your superiors or subordinates, your tone varies accordingly. Unconsciously, the little one picks up the same attitude your tone implies, with the respective person. Like speaking to your domestic staff – are you loud and aggressive? If you catch your child speaking to the domestic staff in an authoritative way, you can be sure he has picked it from you! If you find him making derogatory remarks about any person, it’s because he is only transmitting your opinion! He’s after all too young to judge for himself and your prejudices become his, your bias, his.
It’s a common human failing to discuss one’s boss or superior’s eccentricities (and by some curious law of nature, bosses and superiors seem endowed with many). The little fellow, listening to this gets a feeling that people with some authority over one, can be discussed this way behind their back. So the first person he can think of is his teacher. He regales his parents with the teacher’s mannerisms, mimics him and calls him names. From this stems his disrespect for the teacher and later indiscipline and unruliness. All because you couldn’t wait till he was out of ear shot before criticizing your boss.
There’s a very fine story of the little boy who wanted to preserve the earthenware pot in which his father made him carry food for his old and feeble grandfather, living in a hut. The little boy told his father that when he became old, he would also be served in the same pot through his grandson! Your attitude towards people and your dealings with them is keenly watched by that great imitator. If you are brusque or abrupt with your aged parents, be sure that will be the treatment your son will mate out to you!
How often do you use words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? Do you curb your impulse to swear at times of stress? Are you ‘stormy’ when in rage?
Do you have a nice word for anyone – be it a salesman or beggar who comes to your door step? Do you go out of your way to be hospitable to guess who might drop in when you want to go out yourself? Are you ‘mad’ at some unknown caller at the other end who might have unfortunately dialed your number? The little one is ever watchful and mentally making note of what you say. Even the best dress looks ugly on a misshapen tailor’s dummy. Your child is your adornment and shows off your worth in his behavior. Before you chide him and wonder what’s wrong with him, peep into your inner looking glass and see if you have been a model parent! Your child is only an extension of yourself!