Parents Aren't The Only Teachers

Talk it out Tuesday: what can we do when our children learn habits and tricks from other kids?

The Scenario

At our local park there was a girl (approx. 5 years old) and her mother. The mother was asking her daughter to leave the park, and the girl started pretend crying. The mother would then say, "ok a couple more minutes" and the girl would run off and play. A couple minutes would go by and the situation would repeat itself:

Mom: its time to go home

Daughter: *pretend crying*

Mom: ok, a couple more minutes

Daughter: runs away ecstatic (her acting was successful)

The entire time this exchange was happening, Zinnia stood there staring, just soaking it all in like the little sponge that she is. Zinnia has always been an observer. As she watches the exchange and I stand a few feet behind her (and out of view) I find it interesting that she is so captivated by this dramatic transaction. I too am also an observer. I truly love human interaction.

About an hour later, as I always do, I told Zinnia "two more minutes and then it's time for us to walk home". Zinnia says ok, and thats that. Two minutes pass, and I take Zinnia's hand, I tell her it's time to walk home, and she complies. Easy peasy.

The Repercussion

When we are no more than 10 steps from the park Zinnia starts to look really sad. Her face drops, and she begins to make a sort of crying sound and proceeds to tell me that "Zinnia is sad" (she exclusively talks in third person right now).

At first I was a little caught off guard because I could see that this was a dramatic role-play effort on her part but I hadn't seen her do this one before. Intrigued to know more, I asked her, "what's the matter Zinnia, what happened? You look pretty sad". She reiteratted herself, "Zinnia so sad" and carried on 'crying'. I asked her if she needed a hug, she quickly replied "no", and I told her that if she needs a hug from mommy that I am here and ready when she is. We continued walking and she stopped a few seconds later and we carried on happily chatting about the things we came across on our walk home.

The ah-ha Moment

This was fascinating to me, as pretty much all things early childhood development are. This was Zinnia acting out what she had observed in the park!

Zinnia had watched this exchange so intently between the mother and daughter that she learned the tactic and tried it herself. Later that night, she tried it again. After dinner she put her head down, her face dropped and she told her Aunt B "Zinnia is so sad" while pairing it with a pretend wimper. At the time, Aunt B was eating Zinnia's favourite food: pizza. Was this an attempt at getting more of Aunt B's pizza? Maybe. Was it an attempt to get a hug from Aunt B? Maybe. Either way, Aunt B was caught off guard and I was off snickering in the kitchen over this ripple effect of a random family at the park creeping its way into our home!

The Afterthought

This got me thinking, what can we do in moments like these? How do we work around the teachings of others whom we cannot possibly change? There are now these lessons I hadn't yet considered that are completely unavoidable. I do not see this exact case as a problem. Zinnia now knows the art of pretend crying at just over a year and a half. I can deal with that. What I am now realizing however, is that all the work my partner and I put into being available, conscious and mindful parents can only go so far. One day Zinnia will be in school, and she will learn an array of words and tactics from other children, whose other parents had influenced them in their own ways.

Can anything be done in this situation? I hope I have helped spark a talk in your home today!

Show love, grow love

Happy Living Parents

*the pictures above are of Zinnia and her cousins Natalie and Gabriel playing at the park, we brought no devices with us yesterday and therefore have no pictures to show the story.