Monday, 24 March 2014

Learning to be a good role model

I want a lot of things for Eleanor. I want her to be confident, sociable, calm, emotionally mature, resourceful, practical, outdoorsy ...

In short, I want her to be Not Me.

That's the thing about parenting, isn't it? We think about our weaknesses and hope that we will find some way of ensuring our children develop the opposite traits. So when I'm feeling anxious, or shy, or hot-headed, I think, "I hope Eleanor doesn't have to deal with these emotions when she grows up!" When I attempt anything vaguely DIY related and inevitably fail, I hope that Eleanor will be more hands-on and able to deal with practical things. When I'm stuck indoors on a not-too-nice day and getting cabin fever I hope that Eleanor will not develop my aversion to cold and rain and mud.

The trouble is that children learn by observation, so as Eleanor's primary caregiver, what I do will have an effect on what she does in future. Knowing this has made me more aware of my shortcomings than ever, and my attempts to change are often frustrated.

For instance, not long after Christmas I dug a hole in the garden to plant out our Christmas tree. I am not at all green-fingered, but hey, I need to learn to do these things, I can't leave all the manual work to my husband, what will that teach Eleanor about gender roles? But in doing so, I managed to trigger the SPD I suffered from during pregnancy and spent the following week in agony. Months later I'm still getting SPD twinges. So that went well.

Then there's my temper. To talk to, I seem very mild-mannered, but I am easily frustrated and can get a bit, ahem, shouty. I've been really trying to work on this in recent months and most of the time I succeed in avoiding yelling, but sometimes it all goes wrong and the effort to suppress the screamy urge is too much. I want Eleanor to grow up to be calmer and more in control of her temper than me, but how will she learn that watching mummy effectively throwing a tantrum?!

I saw a quote recently which gave me some comfort. I can't remember exactly what it was, but it basically said that when you are trying to raise your child in a way that is different to how you normally act, or how you were raised, you force your brain to use neural pathways that are weak, as they haven't been reinforced over the years. This makes me feel better – I'm fighting my brain here! That would explain the headaches ...

Although it's hard now, I know that the more I persist in trying to be a good role model to Eleanor, the easier it will get as those neural pathways strengthen. Hopefully this will help her to grow into a secure, able and level-headed young woman – with the added bonus that I might teach myself to actually be those things too!


Does anyone else find it hard to be a good role model to their children? How have you risen to the challenge?

2 comments:

  1. I;m similar to you - shouty but trying not to be! I keep meaning to make myself a 'cheat sheet' of all the good ideas I've read about handling toddler behaviour gently (seems to have ramped up a bit this week to coincide with turning two). Trouble is said toddler behaviour just leaves me wanting to veg out in my free time!

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    1. A cheat sheet sounds like a fab idea - or maybe I should just get a tattoo on my arm saying 'Deep Breaths!' Yes, something strange happens when they turn two, I thought Eleanor was a challenge before her second birthday but then she just seemed to get feistier overnight! Wonderful, but yes, very hard work!

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