I am betting the two babies pictured above didn’t start reading books or making phone calls without first observing someone close to them do these activities over and over again. (Yes, I do know they aren’t actually reading or talking on the phone, but play along with me.)

I have been reading The Parents We Mean To Be and, on a personal level, thinking a lot about the habits I am modeling for my own daughter– intentionally or unintentionally.

There of course are the simple things:

  • I drink water all day, she constantly asks for water in her sippy cup;
  • I sneak into the pantry for a cookie at least once a day (sometimes more often), she wants a cookie after she finishes her dinner;
  • I take my shoes off the minute I get home from work, she says “shoes off” right when we get in the door from daycare;
  • I say “Uh, Oh” when I drop something, you of course already know what she says (thank goodness this is my word of choice.)

Then, there are also the more important things that affect her social, emotional, and moral development:

  • I remember my please and thank you’s, she begins to learn how to use her manners;
  • She sees me reading books every day, she begins to see this as an important daily activity;
  • I spend a lot time on my phone or computer, she thinks my work is more important than my time with her;
  • She watches me clean up her toys, she doesn’t feel responsible for the messes she creates.

Chapter 2: Promoting Happiness and Morality is challenging me “to fundamentally shift our parenting goals.”  I used to rank my child’s happiness as one of the top things I wished for her life, “I just want her to experience joy and be happy.”  Now, I realize being a good person who cares about others is what is truly important.  The author talks a lot about how appreciation, the ability to know and value other people, is critical in a child’s moral development.

He talks about the shift that needs to occur with parenting goals in order to enable children to appreciate others despite conflict of interest and differences in perspective.

As adults, we need to model and help our children develop the ability to (page 56):

  • Balance and coordinate our needs with others;
  • Be reflective and self-critical;
  • Receive feedback constructively;
  • Change our behavior based on our own and other’s assessments;
  • Manage destructive feelings.

There are many lessons to be learned from this book, and it is reminding me how much impact my actions, words, facial expressions, body language, and other behaviors have on my daughter’s moral development.

On a professional level, it is challenging me to question what my daily habits say to the faculty, students, and parents about what I think is acceptable, appropriate, or even expected in the Lower School at Ravenscroft.

If there are other parents reading this book who would like to use it for a parent book discussion this summer or fall, I am about half way done and would love to hear your thoughts.

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