When I thought Jr. wasn't paying attention, he's really been watching me. Over and over recently, I've been surprised by some new behavior he engages in that mimics a behavior of mine. For example, we never had to explicitly teach Jr. how to use a spoon, a brush, or a broom. He just picked them up one day and used them appropriately. I never thought that he was attending to my bed-making in the morning, until one day he came in and started handing me pillows. I always thought he was totally engrossed in bath time and wasn't paying attention to how I cleaned up, until one day he started peeling off the no-slip pads on the bottom of the tub and reached to put them in the net, just as I always do. The most amazing example, though, is when he reached over to me with both hands, grabbed my face between them, and gave me a kiss on my mouth - just like Daddy does!
It is really amazing that children are like little "sponges," taking in new information each day to add to their developing schemas of the world. Even when they aren't giving rapt attention, they are noticing and they are learning. Just as I forget this, Jr. reminds me by doing something new that he has picked up just from observing his environment.
It is awesome that he can learn so many things with so little effort! If only he could learn reading, writing, and algebra with such mental ease! On the other hand, what ELSE is Jr. learning from the behaviors and interactions in our home? I'm sure he's observed some disrespectful interactions, some really foul language, some inappropriate conversations, and even some lying, stealing, and anger. With every interaction he witnesses between my hubby and myself, Jr. learns how to be in relationships, how to handle conflict, and how to deal with emotions. Isn't that a sobering thought!
No one runs a perfect home. No one has perfect communication with their husband all of the time. We are all imperfect this side of heaven. Research has shown that high levels of conflict are not so good for a child's behavioral and emotional adjustment. But, when parents do argue in front of their children, they can counteract any negative impact by resolving the conflict so the children can see. So, if we argue in front of Jr., which we inevitably do, we make sure to also model good conflict resolution. Jr. will definitely see us make many mistakes, but if we acknowledge they are mistakes and model appropriate repentance and restitution, we can also help teach Jr. how to respond when he makes a mistake. Just as anger, hostility, and pridefulness can be learned, so can humility and forgiveness.
Jesus gave us a good reminder in Luke 17: 1-4 when he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”