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Growth Spurts: Set a Good Example

I’m sure every one of us can share a story of a time when we were horrified by something our child said or did. Sadly, we were most horrified because we realized that they were repeating words or actions that came from us! Ouch.

So much of what our children learn from us is “caught” rather than “taught.” In other words, they are picking up on traits, actions, and habits simply by being around us and in our home environment; we don’t even have to use words to teach them.

Thankfully, this isn’t [always] a scary thought. Because I’m sure that every one of us can also share a story of a time when we were quite pleased (pleasantly surprised?) by our child’s words or actions that were actually really nice and even unprompted! So the good news is that our children pick up on the good as well as the, er, not-so-good.

With all of this in mind, though, wouldn’t it be good if we were rather intentional about mixing in a large dose of “taught” in with the “caught”? Think of it as teaching-as-you-go, kind-of like having your child shadow you in on-the-job training. Look for teachable moments throughout every day. Give simple explanations for some of the decisions you make or actions you take. And when you make a bad decision or let unkind words or actions escape, own it and confess it. When our children see us doing this, it will make it easier for them to do the same when they make mistakes. They will see that it’s just as normal to ‘fess up as it is to mess up.

In addition to being intentional about having teachable moments with our children, we should also make a habit of being consciously aware of the examples we are setting for our children every day. Let’s take this job of parenting for what it really is: the opportunity to mold and shape an entire human being.

Parents, what examples are we setting for our children? As they observe us throughout our days, are they learning to love and accept others or hate and reject them? Learning to use their words to be positive and build people up or gossip and tear people down? To serve others or expect to be served by others? To give their best effort or do just enough to get by (at most)? To give validity to every person they encounter or just look right through people, as though they don’t matter? To be kind and respectful or rude and self-serving? To be honest or to cheat (or “tell white lies” or “cut corners” or whatever you call it to justify it)? To be generous or stingy? To be patient or demanding? To be thankful or feel entitled?

We are our children’s greatest and most constant teachers. And whether or not you think they’re paying attention, believe me–they are. So what are they learning from you?


Carrie Bevell Partridge has seen more of herself in her three children than she has in any mirror.

About The Author

Carrie Partridge

Carrie Bevell Partridge grew up in Memphis, TN with her parents and four siblings. She attended Mississippi College, where she met her husband Kevin. They have been married for 20 years and have five children. They live in Ridgeland, MS. Carrie has written the “Growth Spurts” column and managed social media for Parents & Kids Magazine since 2011. You can read more of her work at and

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