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Are You Teaching Your Kids These Negative Traits?

We’ve all heard the saying “actions speak louder than words,” but how often do we stop and really think about what our actions are saying to those around us, especially to our children? So often we get caught up saying things on auto-pilot, whether it’s to ourselves or others, without a thought of how our kids learn from what we say and reflect it in the way they talk to themselves and others. I started thinking about this concept the other day from a very unexpected place: a Facebook post about Taylor Swift. Whether you’re a fan or not, I can guarantee that you’ll find some food for thought in this blog regarding the things we can unknowingly pass onto our kids.

Let’s rewind a little bit first; what the heck could I have to learn from a Facebook post about Taylor Swift? Well maybe it wasn’t so much about her as it was about the way people respond to her. As a mum, I related to her feelings of bringing up kids, especially girls, in a world that can be very harsh and judgemental. I am not by any means a “Swiftie”, but I had to agree with the sentiment of the original post – so many people think they can judge any aspect of her life just because they’re not a fan of her music.

If, as a parent, you sit there laughing at or judging Taylor Swift for watching a football game and cheering for a man she seems to be in a happy, healthy relationship with… what message does that send your kids? That any normal person in a good relationship deserves judgment or to be made fun of? Or that men in a relationship with a powerful woman are laughable? Not sure that’s the best message. A better message to send to boys would be to respect women, not only if they’re attractive or ‘girlfriend material’, but all women. And a better message to send to girls would be that they deserve to take up space, be powerful, and be happy in their lives.

On top of that, making negative comments about Taylor Swift is just reinforcing the tall-poppy syndrome that we are so infamous for in Australia. We may not like to admit it, but many of us don’t like when someone is too good or too successful because we’d like to remain at the same level as our peers. So when we see a successful woman who has won hundreds of awards, earned billions of economy-boosting dollars, and has multiple college courses dedicated to her, we like to find any excuse to discredit her. Obviously, this isn’t limited to Taylor Swift and it can come into the smallest of things we say. For example, “I don’t want to wear anything too bright or fancy to this event because I might stick out like a sore thumb.” A.k.a. It’s better to fit in than to stand out and have people notice you. I know it feels small, but things like this encourage our kids to hold themselves back from trying hard, achieving great things, or being unique and standing out. Because people will judge them if they’re too good, right?

The good news is, we have the power to be a good role model for our kids. Instead of focusing on what we don’t like or don’t agree with, we can shift our attention to the things that inspire and uplift us. However, our words aren’t the only thing that count, it’s also about the actions we take and how we live our lives every single day. Are we modelling the values and behaviours we want to see in others? Are we showing our kids what it means to be kind, respectful, and inclusive? If you’re not sure you’re doing it or not, how can you go about improving and aligning your words with your actions?

It begins with practising what we preach. We always tell our kids to “go play outside”, but when was the last time you modelled outdoor restoration, activity, or even just outdoor fun? Another classic is telling kids to reduce their screen time or get off their phones, but many of you might be a bit nervous to see what their screen time is each day. You might tell your kids that self-love is important, but turn around and judge someone’s outfit and body or even talk about the things you want to change about your own appearance – “I need to get into shape for Summer” or “You can tell I enjoyed myself far too much over the holidays, time to get back in the gym”. These only teach kids that self-judgment is normal and okay.

Instead, we can flip all these narratives by engaging in our own positive behaviours, either on our own to act as a role model, or doing it with our kids for additional bonding. You could try going for a walk, hike, or bike ride at a nice local trail, or even go outside for a couple of hours to help them practise their sport if they play one! You could model a healthy level of screen time in your day, turning off screens for an hour before bed, keeping them away during family meal times, or limiting apps like social media. You could prioritise your own self care by practising positive self-talk, developing a healthy relationship with food and exercise, and embracing the unique differences in yourself and others. When we make it normal, our kids see it as normal. And who knows? They’ll probably make you feel awesome too.

We need to remember: we have the power to shape our kids in both positive and negative ways. The next time you catch yourself about to say something unnecessarily judgemental or critical to yourself or others, think about choosing kindness over judgment or self-care over self-criticism. Become aware of your words and think about the ways you can align your actions and words to teach better lessons about the way people should be treated. We all have the power to create our children’s future with simple moments and we need to consciously choose to be better for them.


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