“Monkey see, monkey do is a saying that popped up in American culture in the early 1920s. The saying refers to the learning of a process without an understanding of why it works. Another definition implies the act of mimicry, usually with limited knowledge and/or concern of the consequences.” CLICK
Raising a child is an experience like no other. You go through an endless variety of emotions and thoughts. Most interesting to me is how raising a child has both awakened my inner child through play and caused me to examine in-depth how I was raised and deciding what behaviors of my parents I will choose to continue and discontinue.
Before a human can speak or reason we learn by watching and mimicking. As an adult your brain has thousands of things to remember each day and you are actively triaging. A child is like a walking Tivo — recording everything they see and hear. The catch is your child Tivo plays back whenever it wants to.
All of the above is laying the groundwork for my belief that one needs to set a good example for their child.
My father loves to exercise. I grew up going with him to the weight room and the track to run. I have fond memories of running and lifting weights with him. My father is an angry person. I love him to death but he is happiest angrily judging someone or something or physically destroying an inanimate object. My cousins still joke with me about watching my father smash a folding chair to pieces when it wouldn’t fold up properly and another incident where he physically assaulted a dishwasher one evening while loading it. My father taught me to be my own man and stand up for what I believe in. My father prejudges people. We attended my father’s church due to an assumption of obligation vice using it to enhance our lives. I grew up eating food often that revolved around a deep fryer.
In watching my father I adopted his behaviors — both good and bad. I exercise five days a week using a mixture of heavy-kettlebells, weighted pull-ups, and six-mile runs. I owe this mindset and my health to my father setting the example for me. I have also worked with a counselor for over one year to teach me how to manage my anger as I tended to express it like my father which is not good. I stand up for what I believe in. Though all humans are guilty of assumption and prejudice in thought I do my best to not let these translate into action. I have traditionally seen church as a waste of time. I have eaten low quality food for much of my adult life.
As a father I need to be aware of how I grew up, continue the positive, discontinue the negative, and combine this with my own beliefs and activities in order to raise my daughter in the best environment possible. I exercise when I can with my daughter. When she cannot be present I let her know that I will be exercising while she is doing something else. She knows we exercise to make ourselves strong so that we can take care of ourselves. She sees exercise and being strong as a normal thing. When I get angry I keep it under control as I don’t want my daughter to grow up to be a third generation assaulter of dishwashers. I teach my daughter to stand up for herself and as she gets older she will learn to base her assessments of others on merit and performance as much as possible. The church we attend is more liberal than I prefer but this is setting the stage for Sunday lunches where we can discuss multiple points of view and how religion can enhance our lives and interactions with others. I now eat high quality food with lots of vegetables, proteins, and drink a lot of water to show my daughter what right looks like.
Am I perfect? Hell no!
Do I make mistakes? Hell yes!
What can we do as parents?
We can break the cycle from how our parents raised us if we need to. We can try, make mistakes, and try again. Every child will grow up with good and bad childhood memories. Every day cannot be ice cream and happy clowns. If you can commit to having more good days than bad, you are on the right path. Focus on one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. Make each interaction with your child meaningful. Live in the moment and through your own behavior show your child the person you want them to be.