My oldest son has a gift of automatically translating or changing his speech to fit the audience. If he is trying to explain something sciency to me, he will use the words I know. When his brothers were younger he could dip into their level of understanding and explain practically anything, and they would understand. He’s a natural teacher.
Some people are clueless about those around them. Some people don’t seem to realize when children are listening. Sometimes I’m some people.
I like to think I do pretty well. But there are times when I’m on the phone with my sister, and we are spouting off about something, and I realize that my kids are soaking up every word. Well, in all fairness, listening to grown-up talk is one of the best ways to figure things out. But still, I should be aware.
And what about blogging and posting and such? Ouch. I know my children have access to what I write online, and I try to be respectful. So I try not to go spouting off about things that they might be hurt about it. I should always be so thoughtful of others.
(There is a difference between being aware of who is listening and making everything you say in front of your children a sermon (i.e., fake conversations for the sake of teaching a lesson or reinforcing your beliefs.) I’ve seen it done between grown-ups when they have children present. The worst is when one grown-up doesn’t follow the other grown-ups beliefs about something, and only one grown-up is in on the charade. Be real! If you’re putting on a play, then let the audience know. Don’t worry, kids are going to know when you are talking to someone who does things differently than you do. Have an honest conversation with your children about it AFTER your guests leave.)
It’s not just our words we need to think about. Our actions prove or disprove what we say we believe anyway. Sometimes it helps me to ask myself, how do I want my child to remember this (event, situation, etc.) ten years from now? Do I want them to see me honestly trying to work out a hard situation with integrity (and maybe humor), or do I want them to remember me sweeping it under the rug or pretending like someone else is to blame or whatever.
Knowing children are present (in my life, if not in the room) honestly does help me to step-up to the plate. It’s not just about me. In fact, my children are bigger motivators of good in my life than they’ll ever know… unless they’ve just read this online.