Friday, October 8, 2010

The Power of Imitation: A Father’s Secret Weapon

I have a bad habit that I picked up years ago at military school. I was taught to spit shine, not the polite way with polish and water, but the old fashioned way with black Kiwi and spit. I thought nothing of my old habit until one evening several years ago during a meeting of the Wood Shoeshine Club.

Like it or not, when my children were younger I had an automatic shoeshine club whenever I shined my shoes. All I had to do was sit down with dirty shoes and polish and my younger children ran to collect their shoes and join me.

One memorable evening while I was (unconsciously) spit shining my shoes, I had to leave the room for a few minutes. When I came back into the room I discovered one of my daughters imitating my behavior – with a slight modification. If spit shining was good enough for Dad, then she felt “lick shining” would be even better. I stared in amazement at my three-year-old daughter licking her shoes. It was a rude awakening to the power of imitation that a father has with his children.

Fathers are often blind to the universal inclination of children to imitate them. Our children are always watching our actions, even when we are not aware of it. When one of my sons was two years old, my wife Karen would find pennies in his dirty diapers. My son had observed that I put money in my wallet and then stuck it in my back pocket. Since he had no wallet or pocket, he just stuck loose change he found around the house down the back of his diaper. His wanting to be just like Dad with money gave new meaning to the expression “filthy lucre.”

Every child is a born imitator. Your children do not have to be trained to imitate observed behavior [good or bad]. They will do it automatically.

Adapted from Legacy: A Father’s Handbook for Raising Godly Children.

HT Steve Wood

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