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As a mother of two young children, I have come to realize just how strongly my moods and behavior affect my household. If I wake up grouchy or am having a stressful day, my ugly mood is reflected right back at me in the behavior of my kids.
They are like a brutally honest mirror, showing me sides of myself I don’t necessarily always want to see. There’s hope for me though, because the opposite is true as well. If I manage to maintain some level of sanity during the (sometimes seemingly endless) days and respond to my children calmly and with understanding, I see how that kind of behavior has a positive effect on them. It’s not a cure-all for unwanted behavior, of course, but the more I model the best way to act, the more positively my children respond to it, and the more I see how it changes their actions for the better. I’ve said it before, but it’s often true – if mom’s happy, everyone’s happy.
I know now that I can usually set the tone of our days by being aware of my own behavior, and modeling the kinds of actions and responses that I want my children, those crazy little sponges, to soak up. I also know that the more I work at modeling my best, the better I feel. When I don’t let my temper flare at my three year old, and instead kneel down and speak firmly and calmly to her, I am proud of my actions, regardless of her response. I feel more in control of myself; I feel happier about the choices I’ve made. So what would happen if I work at setting a positive tone for everyone I interact with during the day? What kind of difference would that make?
And For Yourself
Imagine that, instead of laying on your horn when the person in front of you is sitting at a green light, you give a gentle beep and smile and point to the light when the driver looks up. Try and remember that that snippy stranger in the store may be having a terrible day that you don’t know about, and don’t respond with more negative behavior. Give others the benefit of the doubt.
Set a tone of loving, of compassion, or at least of patience and humor. Is it easy? Of course not. We’re human, and quick to react with defensive behavior. It is worth it, though, to work at it. Will you have the hardest job in the room? Most likely. Will it be worth it? Absolutely. Not only will you be modeling your best self for others, you will be living that best self, every day.
And while there are always going to be people who just don’t come around, who continue to react negatively no matter how respectful and appropriate your behavior is, you will still know that you behaved in a manner you can be proud of, and did your best. You will be setting the tone for your own life.