How Are You Influencing Your Children?

2:55 pmin Articles Rosemary Strembicki

influencesNow that we’re settled into the sultry days of summer and our children, hopefully, are occupied and busy in their summer schedules, let’s take a minute to consider the influence we have on our children and how our thoughts and examples determine their future.

It’s true that every child is born with a complete “DNA package” and temperament.  They are individual human beings from the moment they take their first breath.  But how much does the environment and the choices we make for them determine their future?  It’s a question that continues to vex us, nature vs. nurture.  Studies have been done, data has been collected but no one has come up with “the answer”.

“The answer”, we all seem to be searching for it, the right experiences, the right enrichment, the right schools, the right college major, and the right job.  We believe that if we find the right answers we will find the key to success and happiness for our children.  Sorry to tell you, there is no right answer.  The answers are in the questions; what are we showing our children, how are we living our lives, what do we personally value and hope for? 

Parents and family history are major determinants of our children’s futures.  Our children begin to experience the world through their interaction with us and the way we respond to them.  Later they learn about the world around them through our attitudes and interaction with others.  How are we cultivating their core, their spirit and their ability to cope with everything the world has to offer both easy and challenging?  Are we encouraging them to explore their dreams and take on new adventures or are we modeling a path of safety and predictability?  Are we comfortable with them developing attitudes that are different than ours or do we want them to follow in our understanding of the world? 

We make choices every day, individual choices that reflect who we are.  Our children are watching and learning and will make their choices in response to what they witness.   There are many factors in their choosing and we can never be sure which path they will take but being conscious of our example and maintaining open communication with them will help us guide them in determining the choices that are best for them.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Reflect on where you are, how you got there, and what the biggest influences have been in your life.
  • Take time to think about what you value and how you communicate that to your children.  Early on it will be how you respond to your infants’ needs, later it will be how you respond to your children’s desires and actions, and then it will become how you talk with them about what they think.
  • Be aware of the choices your children make and what it says about how they experience the world.  It’s never too early to get a sense of whom our children are if we pay attention to their reactions to the world around them.
  • Discuss your life choices with older children to give them a perspective on what you encountered in life and how you met challenges.
  • Keep criticisms constructive with the emphasis on the behavior and its consequences, being careful not to label or attack them on a personal level.  Lead them in discussions of how different actions would bring on different results and what they can choose to do differently in the future.   

No matter what influences our children encounter as they grow their basic understanding of how the world works and what to expect starts with what they experience at home.  They may embrace some values and reject others on their journey to becoming adults but if we stay involved and connected our influence as parents grows and our understanding of who they have become brings us closer to them.

Questions to consider:

  • Think about some of the major influences on your life.  How have they affirmed you or challenged you to grow? 
  • How comfortable are you with helping your child process both the everyday and major events in his/her life?
  • What kind of role model are you for your child?  Do your actions support the values you are trying to teach your child?
  • What has your child experienced in the past year that he/she has handled well,  struggled to deal with, or had unfortunate outcomes because of his/her choices?  How do you affirm, assist in processing, or help your child learn from past mistakes? 
  • Think about the person you see your child becoming.  What attributes, values, and choices are you affirming for him/her? 

Conversation starters:

  • The more years you live, the more experiences you have, and the more chances you get to learn from the past.  I’ve discovered ___________.
  • There are so many choices we all make every single day.  Whenever I am faced with a decision, I try to remember the things I value most and the kind of person I want to be.  Sometimes I do a good job of it.  Sometimes I wish I had a do-over.  But overall, what do you think I value most?
  • We’re not always going to agree on everything.  As you grow into adulthood you’re going to have to decide what you value and what kind of person you want to be.  I see you as someone who ___________________________.  Do you feel that way about yourself? 


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