When our kids were young, a friend told me that her 7-year-old son announced that he wanted to be a jeweler when he grew up. I was shocked. I was pretty sure that our 7-year-old son didn’t even know that there was such a job as a jeweler. There was no talk at the dinner table or anytime in our home about buying jewelry.
Children learn from adult discussions and behavior in the home. They learn more from discreetly watching and listening than from what we overtly tell them. They might decide to emulate us or to veer away from our behavior, but they are always watching and modulating their own behavior as a result of what they see.
Their highly attuned senses focus on us in the most inopportune moments. When we take on too much work and allow ourselves to be depleted, they feel it. When we exclude someone from our group or interrupt a conversation with our more important comment, they get it. When we fail to stand up for ourselves or others, they integrate it. When we ridicule or target a group or laugh at a pejorative joke, they learn from it.
Yet when we remember to slow down and do something that is actually fun, they might feel the relief from stress and overwork. When we take a risk and cherish feeling alive and forgive ourselves for not being perfect, they notice and suspect that the same acceptance applies to them. Profound and meaningful lessons are learned everyday when we choose release over anger, forgiveness over resentment, effort over complacency, hope over despair and always love over fear. Beware! They are watching it all.