Here’s a new parenting philosophy worth considering and also a life pro-tip: build the habit of looking in the mirror and modeling for your children the importance of self reflection. It’s a powerful habit. Think about where the analogy “look in the mirror” comes from; what happens when you look in the mirror? You see a reflection of yourself and then you proceed to “fix” things that you think look wrong or out of place. Very few people look in a mirror and walk away doing nothing right? That defeats the purpose of the mirror. In fact, most people who approach a mirror, do so with the express purpose of fixing something in mind. They simply need a way to see what’s going on first.
As a parent, I’ve been thinking about this as a teaching tool with my girls as they get older. Imagine how much more agency they could have over their own lives if they learned this principle early. By the way, they’ve already mastered the habit of holding up a mirror. Just the other day on the ride to school, Olivia remarked out loud (but definitely directed towards me), I don’t think it’s so safe to eat while you’re driving… Sheesh. No one calls you out like your kids right? She was simply reacting to what she was seeing, and giving me an opportunity to look in the mirror and reflect with her. Mind you, this isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation. I’ve tried to break this habit of scarfing down my breakfast while I caravan the girls to their various drop off locations, but it’s been futile. Change has been hard to come by, and yet there it was again, an opportunity to remember something that I’d previously committed to changing.
So what did I do? Well, I did what any good father would do. I told her to mind her own business while I finished enjoying my egg and turkey sandwich! Well, not quite, but I’m sure that was my first reaction. Actually, I thanked her for reminding me of what I said, and then I told her that it’s something I’m going to work on. Then I proceeded to finish eating my sandwich! It wasn’t a terrible response, but in hindsight, it also doesn’t quite model the behavior I’d like to see her take on if she were in my position. A more thoughtful reflection would have looked like me thinking out loud about the ways in which I could adjust my morning routine while I simply stopped eating in the moment as a way to signal an immediate shift in my behavior.
Here lies the brilliance and limitations of reflection: just because you see something, doesn’t mean you’re in an immediate position to fix it. Knowing what’s wrong and being able to fix what’s wrong are two different things. Yet, what I’ve learned is that people who fail to build the habit of reflection, also tend to lack the ability to change their behavior (because they rarely see what’s worth fixing!). One thing at a time. As for me, I’ve been imagining what would it look like if I ate breakfast at the table with the girls in the morning before we left? If I figured this out, I bet it would lead to less rushed mornings and more present conversations with the girls on the ride to school. This might be worth figuring out…