Show, Don't Tell

by Sesame Lane Admin on 29/08/2016 3:17:44 AM
You want to be the best example for your children, it’s a given. You want to ensure they will grow up to be the best little humans they can possibly be. And as their carer and role models it’s up to you to show them how to live. 

But does it make a difference if you show your kids what to do rather than simply telling them? Why is it so important, and do you always have to show, or can you use the old ‘do as I say and not as I do’ rule? We'll explain: 

•    Why it’s important to show your children how to be good people 
•    When you should tell them rather than show them 
•    What’s the difference 
•    How to show, not tell in everyday life

Why Should You Show, Not Tell? 

Children are sponges. They take in everything they see, hear and experience on a daily basis. It’s how they learn and grow. So even when you think they’re not watching, they are. They’re learning from you how they should behave and deal with new social situations. 

It’s when you start to notice little habits of your own popping up in your children, then you really start to realise how much they’re paying attention. 

This is why it’s so important to be aware of how you are behaving. What are they seeing and how are they learning to deal with people? Are you teaching them to be polite and have compassion for others, or are you showing them that it’s normal to not have a lid on your temper? 

Children don’t understand (or appreciate) the stresses and strains of adult life so when you’re around your children it is key to be aware that you are showing them how to be a decent, well-rounded human being, even if you can’t be that all the time. Who can? 
Show Your Children the Way 

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#1 Listen to their Answers 
We all ask our children questions. How was your day? What did you do at nursery? How are you feeling? 

But how often do you really take the time to listen to the answer? 

Think about when you usually ask these questions. Are you distracted and busy focussing on something else, purely making conversation to act like you’re paying attention, when you’re not? 

Avoid asking these questions when your attention is elsewhere. If you want to engage in a conversation with your little one take the time to really listen to their answer. There could be integral parts of information in their answers about how they’re feeling, children they’ve fallen out with, or parts of the day that scared them/made them particularly happy. If you’re not listening, you’ll miss it. 

Even if it’s just for five minutes children love to know that they have your undivided attention and love. In all honesty this will probably be enough to satiate them and they’ll let you get on with making dinner/doing the laundry/finishing some emails. 

But if you ignore them, they’ll know and they probably won’t leave you alone until you satisfy their need for attention.

#2 Expect Gratitude 

This is one many parents let slip. You encourage your children time and time again to be nice to other children, or other adults. If they show a particularly good amount of empathy to another child, or another adult you’ll acknowledge their effort, and you make the effort to be particularly polite to others when your kids are around. 

But, say for example, you’re spending a day with your child and you buy them a gift or take them somewhere you know they will love and they don’t give you a word of thanks. You let it pass because you know they’re grateful, right? 

It’s important to make sure your child says ‘thank you’ to other adults and show their gratitude to others on a daily basis, but how diligent are you on how much gratitude they show you? 

You deserve it just as much (if not more) and it’s important they remember this. You are not exempt. 

The thing is, kids won’t think about whether this has an affect on you or not, until they see it in real time. Think about getting your partner involved, getting them to say, “didn’t mom make such a great meal, shouldn’t we say thank you and let her know how much we loved it?” This way you are not demanding it yourself but they will realise how important it is to show you. 

When they see how happy it makes you they will learn how important it is and will learn to do it without any prompting. 

#3 Show them How to Control their Emotions 

How many times have you caught yourself telling your child to calm down? I can imagine it’s quite a few...since this morning. But how often do you show them how? 

Think about it, it’s like someone asking you to drive a car down the street when you’ve never even set foot in a car. 

Children don’t automatically know how to calm themselves down, that’s what you’re there for. 

This is one of the most important skills you can teach your children. It is a skill they will be able to use every day for the rest of their lives. 

There are a few different ways you can do this. Firstly, if you are dealing with a particularly difficult situation such as, getting angry at other drivers on the road when you’re running late, it is important to vocalise why you are angry, and how you’re going to ‘let it go’. 

This way your child understands what is making you angry or upset and why you’re not going to let it bother you. 

Secondly, you can actually teach children how to calm themselves down when you find them quite stressed out. A great way is to have a designated ‘calm down’ space. It’s important not to have this as a place for punishment, but a place to take some time out and calm down before they carry on with whatever they were doing. 

You can have the ‘calm down chair’ as a place where they sit, count to ten and chill for a second. Explain that it’s up to them to calm down and when they’re ready to carry on playing/doing whatever they were doing, they can get down from the chair and do it. 

There’s no punishment here, but you are showing them how to calm down and that it’s their responsibility to control their temper. 

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#4 Love Yourself 

Have you ever caught yourself declaring how much you hate your hair today, your clothes don’t fit anymore, or you wish you had x, y and z? 

How much you do it in front of your children? 

Even if you’ve never really been a fan of how curly your hair is, you’re constantly on a diet or don’t like a certain part of your body, you need to work on loving yourself to set a good example for your kids. 

If you’re not happy about something your kids pick up on it through your actions and behaviours. You can’t speak negatively about yourself and not expect your children to do the same. 

The more you work on your own health and mental well being the more your kids will follow your lead. They are naturally built to be positive and don’t even think about their weight or the style of their hair, they just live with who they are and enjoy life. 

If you’re not doing the same, they will change. 

Try Your Best and the Rest Will Follow 

In this scenario your actions and your words are just as important as one another. Your children pick up on both; so being more aware of your own attitudes and behaviour is key in setting the right kind of example for your children. 

You can’t expect them to act completely different to yourself. The people they spend the most time with are the people they will copy. 

We all have bad habits, we’re not perfect, but simply being aware of what these habits are teaching your children is a step in the right direction. Picking up when you make mistakes, being aware of them and making things right will be noticed. Simply try. 

Showing your children the way is the best thing you can do.