THE BLOG

What Kind of Impact Are You Making on Your Kids?

05/07/2012 04:22 pm ET | Updated Jul 07, 2012

I am a mom. I have three boys, twins who are almost 16 and an 11-year-old. I would never trade my experience that I am having right now as a mom. It is one of the most awesome jobs that one could ever have. However, if you don't have biological children of your own, don't feel left out. Parenting happens with stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, pets and anything else that needs some looking after.

Parenthood is like employment without a paycheck. We give and give and do and do and sometimes feel like asking, "What do I get?" Many parents forget that they are actually working a job. Day in and day out the routine can become, well, so routine. We lose sight of the fact that these young people are looking up to us at all times. They look at how we live, what we say and how we react. At a young age, it is like they are looking in a mirror. What we do now as parents is going to play out in our kids' lives later on. I witnessed this in something that just happened with my teens, but first let me tell you how I started making an impact on them.

I began telling my children that they needed to use their muscles when they were babies. When climbing up onto a sofa or a chair, I would say, "You can do it! Use your muscles!" all the while telling them the names of the muscles on their arms (biceps, triceps, etc.) and on their legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, etc). I would tell them that the muscles in their tummies are called abdominals and some of the back muscles (latissimus dorsi, trapezius, etc). This was a fun game and educational at the same time. I continued to use this reference as they got older. When they came home from school I would ask the question, "What muscles did you use today?" I loved the answers, pushing this and pulling that and often, they would ask me "What muscle are you using momma?"

Did this make an impact? Absolutely. I have three athletes.

As a parent, our children look at us every day. From the time they get up until the time you close their bedroom door at night, they are looking at us. They watch what you eat and how you eat it. My kids even know how to imitate my husband when he eats his cereal. He slurps and doesn't touch his lips to the spoon. Who knows this stuff? For me, I just don't eat cereal with my husband, but my kids can mimic him to perfection. They are watching everything from how you eat to what you eat. If kids see you eating chips for snacks or grabbing a carton of ice cream when depressed, they are going to carry those same practices into their adulthood.

Have your kids grown up seeing colorful food on the table? Starting with vegetables and fruit at every meal is essential. Get your children to see that when you are making a plate for dinner it has a balance of healthy, colorful foods. They may not want to eat the broccoli, the sliced tomatoes or the sliced cucumbers after being offered them night after night. However, they will get accustomed to seeing it as part of a meal. My kids now look for that healthy food and ask for it if it is not there. See why it is called a job now? You can't quit just because they said "I don't like it," or "I don't want to eat that." Keep putting it out there, eventually they will try it.

Did I make an impact? Absolutely, my kids made their own sautéed broccoli with garlic and lemon last night.

The groans and moans in the backseat of the car would echo in my ears as I pulled over on the side of the road to collect pine cones while on a road trip. "No! No! No! Don't stop we want to go home." "This is dumb, I don't want to collect pine cones." For years, whenever we would travel, I would find something in nature that would remind us of our outing. Pinecones have been my favorite. Instead of succumbing to their belly aching, I would pull over and get everyone out of the car and start a collection. "One for everyone" I would yell. Once back in the car with their pinecones thrown in the back and mine perched nicely on the dash, we would drive home, usually in silence.

Did I make an impact? During those moments I would have never thought I did until now. Last weekend my twins went on a trip with friends to Lake Arrowhead without me. (Devastating, but dealing with it.) Guess what they brought back to me?

2012-05-04-PineconesKathyPhoto.jpg

How amazing! The pinecone was gorgeous, but even more significant was the impact that I had made with all those previous trips. They found this pinecone on their own. No prompting, no reminding or asking. I was so proud and smiling so big on the inside. Impact!

Creating lifelong habits takes work, dedication and perseverance. Don't wait until it is too late. In a blink they are out of diapers and off to college. With all the work we do as parents, do you ever sit and wonder what kind of connection you have with your kid? Do they look at us just as a parent, ruler, dictator, teacher, communicator, or simply as another human being?

What's your story? Kids, what type of connection do you have with your parents? Parents, what type of connection do you have right now with your kids? Can you think about what kind of connection you hope to have with your own grown children? Or are you enjoying the relationship/connection that you have right now with your grown children? It is interesting to stop and think about it, even if you just changed a diaper.

The impact begins from the moment they are born.