Whether your child is two years old or twelve years old, who she spends a lot of her time with matters. At two years old, she is imitating everything she sees and hears. Facial expressions, phrases, emotional responses, even moods! And at twelve years old, she may be imitating things that can more profoundly affect her–such as opinions, decisions, and beliefs.
No matter what age your child is, the reality is that we cannot be with our children all the time. They go on playdates while we do our errands or go to work. They spend time at daycare with other adults and children. They go to the park, and we don’t always know who they are climbing the jungle gym with, or who they are sitting with on the seesaw. But each day, our children are being shaped by their environment in big and small ways. And while we cannot control every single thing they may be exposed to, we can be proactive about knowing who they interact with, and what possible influences they may be having on our children.
Here is an example. There was a time when I started observing that my two year old daughter began to say the word “sexy.” While this is harmless and innocent, I wondered where this had come from, considering that it was not a word we used often at home….and not exactly appropriate coming from the mouth of a cute little 2 year old girl. I assumed at first that it was her nanny who she had learned the word from. However, I was wrong and eventually learned that it was her playmate who was our neighbor whom she learned it from.
My experience was a very minor case, but more worrisome words and behavior can be learned by our children from their peers. Cursing, hitting, and even “mean” treatment towards others can all be learned by our children, which is why it is so important for us moms to 1.) set a good example to them, 2.) pay attention the things our children do and say, 3.) take the time to spend time with our children and their friends. If we can, we should also try to get to know their families too, as this will reveal and explain much of their behaviors and beliefs.
Buy beyond securing positive influences of our children, the best thing I believe, about getting to know your child’s friends is how this shows her that what is important to her is important to you. It is through this that she knows she is loved in return by her favorite friend–her mama.