So often we address our youngsters with warnings about their behaviors: Watch what you are doing. Use your manners. Play nice. It is our responsibility to make sure they learn how to navigate themselves in the world. We have learned from our own experiences that others make judgments based upon the actions they observe, so we want our children to be careful and learn from a young age that actions speak louder than words.
And though we tend to heap this advice on our children, I often wonder if we really get it. We are so busy using the words to get the messages across to our children that we often forget that it is our actions that really make the difference.
This past weekend I watched as an entire row of football fans became enthralled with a 5-year old boy who was “learning the ropes.” The boy, who was clearly a Bengals football fan, was with his father. During the first offensive series he was in awe of the fans around him who cheered and gleefully exchanged “high-fives” as the Bengals moved the ball down field. When the Bengals’ defense took the field the noise around him grew as fans stood up, loudly chanted and banged their seats. At first he looked shocked, his eyes grew wider but than a smile grew across his face when again the “high-fives” were exchanged amongst the fans. Now his hand flew up in the air as he reached for a “high-five” from, me, the strange woman behind him who only seconds before was bounding on her seat and yelling at the top of her lungs.
As the game continued he grew more and more confident in his actions. He mimicked the gestures during the fight song; he reached all around for high-fives and banged on his seat when the defense took the field. Women and men behind him, next to him and in front of him smiled as he “took on” the actions of a Bengals fan. And it was simply our actions that made this impact. No one talked to him and explained why you make noise when the defense is on the field. No one corrected him or reminded him to chant defense. He simply watched, made some observations and mimicked what was going on around him.
And we know this happens all the time. We know our children are watching and yet we often act poorly. We think teaching is about words when we can teach our children so much more through our behaviors. Children learn how to express feelings, deal with frustration, solve problems and socialize with others by watching our actions. It is what we do and how we do it that makes the difference.
This past weekend a group of adults had a great time teaching a new fan the ropes. I sure hope his father was happy with what his son learned at the game!