Back in the ancient days of Fred Flintstone and no cell phones, when he was a young dad and a wet-behind-the-ears pastor, Andy had a habit. No, not a habit like we refer to today. But he unconsciously used a certain phrase – constantly.
“I’m sick and tired of…” was the opening statement to just about anything that bothered him. In or out of the pulpit. Abuse of children, eating English peas, lazy politicians, cold weather at winter’s end - you name it. He had an opinion and everyone around him would soon know what it was. One day he finally realized how often that pet phrase escaped his lips.
While driving back home from one of our frequent trips, we adults were absorbed in some world-changing discussion. Our two young sons were playing and talking in the back of the van, totally ignoring the boring conversation in the front seats.
Or so Andy thought.
In the middle of our conversation, per the usual, Andy finally said, “Well, I for one am sick…” But before he could finish the phrase, our seven-year-old son smoothly and loudly slid in, “and tired!” Renie burst out laughing and stated, “Think he’s heard that a few times, or what?! I’ve been trying to tell you that!”
Do we parents realize that the little kids arguing in the backseat can multi-task, with ears that rival twenty-year-old elephants? Somehow they have the ability to carry on a screaming match with their brother, and at the same time listen to every word coming out of Dad’s mouth – 100 feet away. Combine that with a built-in belief system that tells them ‘mom and dad are right…period,’ and we have a system in place for passing on illogical beliefs and any racial tendencies for generations to come.
Scary to realize we parents hold such power.
Unfortunately, most of us are not continuously aware that our tiny geniuses sitting behind us are learning from us…24/7. But the old statement, “Children learn what they live with” is true. Those young brains are like dry sponges, they absorb everything. And time doesn’t necessarily erase all they experience.
Loud, discouraging, and angry words impact a family. And that listening sponge you have in your home eventually grows up. Becoming an adult that has the bad and good of childhood imbedded within. And all that carping and yelling of childhood gets passed on to another generation, if the chain isn’t broken. (Then grandparents are left scratching their heads and wondering, “Why are little Johnny and Jane so sarcastic and hurtful much of the time?”)
The Apostle Paul wrote that we “should not allow worthless rotten speech to come out our mouth, but rather that which builds up and shows kindness to the hearer.” Ephesians 4:29
You may think no one is listening or watching and learning to mimic you – the good and the bad. But there is always someone. You simply may not realize it.