Sssshhh… be careful what you say!
It’s been said time and time again: children imitate what they see their parents and other adults do. Toddlers with their exceptional powers of observation, in spite of their language communication faculties not yet fully developed, can pick up the slightest nuances in every day situations.
Children are uncanny; they notice everything. One’s wedding vows always includes the line, “For good or for worse, until death do us part.” So it is with children. For good or for bad, nothing will escape their attention. It’s up to us to make sure that we highlight the good and downplay, if not outright eliminate, the bad. They will learn all the marvelous language patterns of adults, they will hone their motor skills such as picking up little objects, holding their spoons properly before feeding themselves, scrub themselves in the bath, color their shapes and write their numbers. It is pure joy watching them evolve, going through the different stages of development. So the sun shines and the rain falls on both the good and the bad.
The most obvious mishap of all this glorious mimicking is the unguarded moment when Mama or Papa trips, cuts herself, bangs his knee and the favored expletive explodes from one’s lips. The minute the child hears you utter the F word, or the S word, or any other R-rated words, it makes a strong impression on him and he will most probably never forget such a crystallized moment.
My older son, who is now 5, was scolding his younger brother the other day, using a P word I often exclaim when a 23-month old headstrong personality clashes with my 30-something just-as-obstinate personality. My husband was dismayed to hear my son calmly censuring his younger brother with a decidedly adult word on his lips. He quickly remonstrated my son for using the word and told him to never say it again. The silver lining to the moment is that my older son needs only be told once not to do something again. The adage “A word to the wise is enough” surely fits him to a T. And he is able to capture the “right” context when to use such explosive words.
But lest we get carried away with the shimmering but still very thin silver lining, it must be reiterated that when it comes to what must leave your mouth in unguarded moments, prudence is always the better part of valor. Be careful what you say because our children are listening. Very closely. Every time.