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As a parent it is our duty to shield and protect our children from wrong and unpleasant things. However, there are a lot of things we do ourselves that can prove to be harmful to our children. Here are 7 things parents should never do in front of their children.
Indeed, imitation is the best form of flattery. However, young children have no filter. They imitate everything their parents do. Children are more observant than we realise or give them credit for, and so it is very important to be vigilant about your actions around them. This article will tell you about some behaviours that you should avoid in front of your child, in order to set a good example in front of them.
7 Things Parents Should Never Do In Front Of Children
There are a lot of things parents will consciously make an effort to shield their children from ‘wrong things’. Parents often actively seek to keep their children safe from negative emotions, feelings, and experiences. However, there are a lot of things we do ourselves that can prove to be harmful to our children. Here are 7 things parents should never do in front of their children.
Fighting is a very juvenile way of working through any kind of situation. Anger is real… so is hurt, pain, disappointment, and all those negative emotions you feel. However, there are other, more adult and constructive ways to deal with these emotions than to engage in a fight with your partner – verbal or physical. Fighting does not resolve anything – it only worsens the mess.
In fact, some of you might be surprised at just how much fighting can affect children. A study carried out by University of East Anglia actually reported that children who grew up in a household with mild to moderate family problems, had smaller cerebellums than other kids. The cerebellum is a part of the brain that is linked with psychiatric illnesses.
Instead of fighting, the next time you feel the urge to retort your partner’s words with an equal and opposite force and your child is around, sit your partner down and have an adult, mature conversation with them. Become each other’s partner in crime and resolve to always approach conflicts in this manner. Not only will this remarkably and positively affect your relationship, your child will also learn how to communicate effectively.
WATCH: Dr Gunjan Agrawal Talks About Parental Conflict And How To Resolve It
2. Call Names
This is another tricky one to understand, and yes it is different from swearing in front of your child.
Most of us will be mindful about not addressing anyone with any colourful names when our children are around. However, it is also important to keep the sarcasm in check. A lot of parents may complain about how kids these days are over smart and talk back too often and too much. However, what we don’t realise is – it is our own sarcasm that the children are picking on and learning to apply.
While a child may not be able to explain what sarcasm means, children are smart. They are able to pick up on things like pitch, tone, and underlying emotions with which a thing is being said. This is how they will know that you did not mean it when you looked at your partner and said, “Oh you’re SUCH a dear! Thank you SO MUCH for forgetting yet again!”
They will know when you are calling names, be it your partner, your mother-in-law, the neighbour, the maid, the school teacher… children will know, even if you sugar-coat it.
3. ‘Get Busy’
This one is another no brainer. For all obvious reasons, it is a bad idea to have sex when your child is around, or to even get naughty with each other. One of the reasons why our children are hitting puberty early now a days is the early exposure they are getting to sexually explicit content – through movies, music, TV, and now the internet too. We might think they are “too young to understand” and so “it’s okay” or “no big deal”, but talk to any good child psychologist, and they will always advise against this kind of early exposure.
However, one thing to note here is: children do need to learn how to show love, affection, empathy and sympathy through healthy physical contact. So while it is advised against getting down and dirty, physical display of affection is necessary for your child to learn this important social and personal skill. So feel free to hug your partner, kiss them on the cheek, put your arm around them, or cuddle together. So long as your acts are not sexual in nature, physical contact should not be completely eliminated.
Remember how you taught your child to speak? You went through all the trouble of sounding ridiculous talking in Parentese, and drawing your syllables out! But it worked, and your child finally learnt to speak. Along with that, however, your child also learnt one important life lesson – doing what you do, following in your footsteps, is a good idea!
Now imagine if you say f*ck, sh*t, and all those colourful words in front of your child… scary thought, yes?
We all might have experienced our children putting us in a spot, quoting something we said, or repeating a word we used, uncannily in the correct context too, at the most inappropriate times. What needs to be emphasised upon is, children not only absorb the actual word, but are tuning in more to the sentiment with which the word was spoken. And so, the next time they experience similar emotions, that is the method they are going to use to express and channelize them. Not healthy, right?
5. Get Drunk
Several studies show that children whose parents drink alcohol in front of them tend to not consider drinking as ‘harmful’ or ‘bad’, and are more likely to start drinking earlier than other children. In fact, such children are also twice as likely than other children to ‘abuse’ alcohol and binge on it .
When we get drunk in front of our children, they see us ‘losing control’ of the situation. And we are the people who are responsible for their well-being and are supposed to be their providers. This has a lot of negative impact on their social and emotional health, affecting most importantly, their sense of security and assurance.
Alcoholism is one end of the spectrum, and we all know we are not going down that path. However, what may come as a surprise to most parents is just how much even casual and/or social drinking (and smoking) can affect children. While we may not be indulging in the bottle or the glass too much, and may be well within our limits for our drinking to actually harm us, children lack the perspective and maturity to understand this.
It is best to keep the bottle (and the glass) away when your child is around. For house parties, hold off on the drinking till your child is asleep. For social drinking, try and avoid drinking altogether. If that is not going to be possible, do not take children along for such parties.
6. Preach and Not Practice
As parents, we all teach our children good things: brush your teeth in the morning and before going to bed, wash your hand when you return home, pick up your own used plate and glass after the meal, etc.
However, a lot of us don’t, in fact, brush our teeth before going to bed, head straight to the kitchen when we return from work to quickly grab a bottle of water or a snack, and a majority of times, it is always mommy who sets the table, and then tidies it after the meal, while dad goes to the living room and switches the TV on.
You need to do yourself whatever you ask children to do. The best way for them to pick up habits is by showing them the importance of these habits through your own actions.
7. Glue to a Screen
This one is particularly important for us gen-next parents. We are much more technology-savvy than our parents were. However, as a generation, we are all facing problems of being eternally glued to some screen or the other (mobile, PC, tablet, etc.) – watery eyes, chronic headaches, poor sleep, stress, have all become part and parcel of our screen-time-heavy lives.
The next stage of these problems is contracting lifestyle problems like myopia (short-sightedness), diabetes, obesity and many more. However, what’s scary is, too much screen time can actually affect your brain too: it can lead to reduced cortical thickness, impaired cognitive function, atrophy of gray matter in the brain, loss of integrity in the white matter of the brain, and erroneous dopamine functioning .
These alone are enough reasons why parents should severely and actively restrict their own screen time. However, the final straw that should break this habit for us is the fact that – if we don’t restrict ourselves, how are we going to be able to shield our children from these things? If brain impairment can occur even in fully-developed adult brains, can you imagine what children who grow up looking at too many screens for too long might have to face?
It might sound like a lot of work, to be on such a constant vigilance about your actions and words. However, it will be a lot easier to try and think of it as ‘being your best self’, for yourself, to begin with. Kick the butt not only because you don’t want to smoke in front of your child, but because it is the right choice to make for your own health. Be kind to others because it is indeed a virtue, not only because you want your children to be kind too. Flip your perspective, and the journey can become a cake walk. All the best!