This post isn’t about wearing the right attire for a job interview, or making friends on the first day of school, or handshakes…rather, it’s about the real first impressions–the ones that affect our kids for life. My oldest daughter seems to be at a pivotal point in her development. I’d heard many people lament that 3 is a far more trying age than 2, and I have to agree. We are working hard on balancing discipline and independence, because we want our children to be well-mannered without squashing their internal fire. I find myself walking a fine line each day and wondering if I’m responding well, both in action and verbally. Am I giving too many time-outs, saying “no” too often, or am I being too lenient?
Raising children is by far the most difficult “job” I’ve ever had. It is frightening how sponge-like they are–how they can repeat something you said weeks ago verbatim, or recall random details or names they’ve only heard once. That’s why it is so terribly important that we make good “first impressions” whenever possible. They learn by example. If you hug your spouse as he or she leaves each day for work and your child sees it, it makes an impression. If you are affectionate and loving with each other, it makes an impression. If you argue or raise your voice frequently, they notice. It affects them.
Likewise, if you eat burgers and fries and drink soda around your children, that is what they will come to accept as “normal” food. If you spend your free time and weekends sitting on the couch in front of the television, that will become “recreation” for your kids.
The last six months have made a huge impact on our family. As we transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle, our oldest learned words like “salad” and “green smoothie,” and both our children now eat a fairly healthy diet of whole foods. Cheese and deli meat have been replaced with hummus and nut butters. Store-bought snacks have been replaced with nuts, dried fruits, and homemade treats. My husband and I have also begun training for distance running events again and our daughters see us on the treadmill and even go on road runs with us in the jogging stroller on occasion. Our oldest talks about “exercising.” Yesterday, as I ran on the treadmill, she jumped on the mini-trampoline and ran laps around the basement, just because.
I love that these first impressions we are making on our children now are setting them up for healthy habits in the future. Our children are faced by such a deluge of poor choices in the outside world, it’s critical we teach them–and show them–what’s right while we have them at home.