I Didn’t Know Raising Children Meant Training Parrots

Before I had children, I had grand ideas of what I would teach my children, how they would respond, and the blissful life that we would have together.  However, there are three things that I forgot to take into account.

First, I don’t know everything that my kids need to know and that I need to teach them.  Second, I know (e.g. say and do) way too many things that I don’t want my kids to know (e.g. say and do).  And third, I didn’t know raising children meant training parrots! I didn’t know that they would repeat everything I say and do.


Raising Parrots

It all starts out simply enough.  In fact, it is usually really cute (is ‘cute’ okay for a guy to say?).  Think about a baby mimicking a smile or a toddler repeating a funny sound, word or phrase.

Just today, my toddler repeated letters and her versions of words and phrases as we played the “Alphabet Game” with our older kids during a car ride.  This was so much fun to listen to.  We have also chuckled a lot lately as our toddler continually uses a phrase that she copied from a friend.  She gives a peace sign and does a little fist-bump action as she says “Peace. Pound it. Yeah.”  It truly makes everyone smile.

But then you start realizing all of the other ways that your child starts to copy you….

  • Your mannerisms
  • Your attitude
  • The way you eat and drink
  • The way you work
  • The way you react
  • The way you plan (or don’t plan)
  • The words you use (even the ones that are said when you don’t think they can hear you)
  • The way you treat people (and what you say behind their back)
  • How you handle tough situations
  • [we could easily keep going couldn’t we…]

I hope that my every word and deed sets good examples.  Yet, I know better.

They Copy What You Do, Want What You Have

As my kids get older, I see more and more of myself in how my children act.  And, I also see my kids wanting the things that I have – from an iPhone to a laptop computer and everything in between.  Yes, we often talk about age-appropriateness and other aspects that relate to the game of “I want that.”  It helps, sometimes.

I do have to laugh a bit, though, because they don’t yet realize that most of the electronics they think they want will be so outdated, by the time that they are allowed to have them, that they will mock the ‘dinosaurs’ that I now have.

So What Do You Do?  Become Intentional

We can’t control everything that our kids will think, say or do.  But, we can control what they see and hear from us.  And since we are not perfect people, we need to be more proactive and become more intentional with our words and actions so that our children have the best possible example to follow.

To be more intentional, try some of these thoughts:

  • Realize that you will be copied; and, accept the challenge.
  • Think about what you want copied and what you don’t – act accordingly.
  • Talk – with your children – about the examples, including the why, that you want your children to follow.
  • Acknowledge when you set an example that you don’t want your children to follow.
    • Then, ask forgiveness.
    • And, take the opportunity to discuss what you could have, or should have, done differently.
  • Pray – we will never be perfect – ask God for help.

Question: What other tips would you add to the list for being intentional in your parrot training?

10 Comments to “I Didn’t Know Raising Children Meant Training Parrots”

  • Jon Stolpe July 6, 2011 at 6:45 am

    Great post Steven!

    I’ve thought about this a lot especially recently as my oldest approaches driving age in the next couple of years. How am I setting an example in my driving? Will my kids drive like me? Do I obey the speed limit? Do I drive with both hands on the wheel? Do I remove distractions while driving?


    • Steven Cribbs July 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      It’s amazing to think about the littlest of details, like those in driving, that our children will observe and duplicate. My 7-year-old is already watching my driving. He consistently asks what the speed limit is and how fast I am going. He also notices when we go in a direction that he is not expecting and asks why we turned that way.

  • Jason Fountain July 6, 2011 at 8:10 am

    I love the idea of being intentional, Steven. My wife and I hope to have a child within the next year and it thrills me and scares me to death just thinking about it. Can there be any greater challenge than raising a child? I would imagine that having children would increase your reliance on God. Thanks!

    • Steven Cribbs July 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      Our adventure with raising children brings something new every day. If I think about things too hard (and think that “I” have to do everything just right), it does scare me. But, knowing that God is really the one in control does make a difference. And, I don’t think there is any greater reward than the love of a child. It makes it all worth it and it is truly life-changing!

  • Jeff Randleman July 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Wow. Did I really need to read this today? I guess I did…

    Just last night, I was laughing at how cute (it’s ok for guys to say that in certain contexts) my 2 year old was acting, mimicing me as we watched a movie together.

    But knowing that he’s picking up so much more simply reinforces the notion of being intentional in everything I do. And there are way too many times that I fail in this. I just hope my kids see what I want them to see through all my failuires and messes.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • Steven Cribbs July 7, 2011 at 12:06 pm

      There are times when I get really concerned about some of the things that my kids have picked up…especially when I realize they learned something from me. I am learning to take those times to make a change in what I do, talk to my kids about what I am doing, and trust God to help the kids make the connection.

      I am also hoping to teach my kids that it is not always about the mistakes that I make; but, what I do in response to those mistakes makes a big difference.

      It is a daily challenge, isn’t it???

  • Leah Adams July 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    The really ironic thing is that one day your kids will cringe because they sound just like mom or dad OR their mannerisms are just like mom or dad. There is an old rhyme that goes, “mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother (or father) after all”. We must be very careful what we pass on.

    • Steven Cribbs July 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm

      I hadn’t heard that rhyme before. It is so true. I remember growing up thinking that there were certain things with my parents that I didn’t want to be like; and, now I am a mirror.

      Thanks for commenting Leah.

  • When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking | Steven Cribbs July 29, 2011 at 6:49 am

    […] know that my kids do watch me. In fact, I often-times think I am training parrots as my kids mimic everything they see and hear. And I quite often think I am looking at a mirror […]

  • When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking - StevenCribbs May 27, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    […] know that my kids do watch me. In fact, I often-times think I am training parrots as my kids mimic everything they see and hear. And I quite often think I am looking at a mirror […]

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