Children watch adults ever so closely. They inherit our view of the world and how life works. They start by seeing everything through the lens of our perception, including and especially how they see themselves.
Our kindness and generosity become long-lasting lessons to them. A part of the architecture of their own cognition and emotions.
Equally, negative emotional traits also form patterns of thinking inside of them. For most of us, that negative voice inside our head sounds distinctively and recognizably like adults who played significant critical roles in our own childhoods.
Children are finely tuned to perceive how we respond to them, constantly learning from those responses. They often understand us better than we do ourselves, since they experience how we actually act and react versus how we tell ourselves that we do.
I'm thinking of how children become so very good at knowing just what to say or do to get a response or a behavior from their parents. Ever stood in a checkout line and watched a frustrated parent give in to a whining child just to avoid the embarrassment of parenting in public?
We might attribute some form of malicious intent to the annoying child--the frustrated parent usually does--but what we are actually witnessing is just the incredible awareness the child has of how his or her parent operates. If you are not the parent who is caught in the emotion of that moment, it's fascinating to watch.
This also means we have great opportunities to build cultures, within our families, our classrooms, and our schools, that use this power of childhood awareness to grow, reinforce, and perpetuate healthy behaviors and beliefs.
Who we are, and how we act with children, matters. A lot.