Have you ever heard that imitation is the highest form of flattery?
Do you have any mini-mes at home who have mastered imitating you?
Are you flattered?
I have seen my children imitate my words, my tone of voice, even my cooking and cleaning habits. Sometimes, I am flattered and proud. Other times, I am embarrassed by what they learned from me.
When my eldest was 3, I was so proud of how well he pronounced his words, spelled and communicated with adults. When we arrived at the doctor’s office or a restaurant, he would announce, “Hi, I am Jordan Rotz, R-O-T-Z.” He would even spell our rare surname before anyone had to ask.
Little did I know that he thought our last name was “Rotzaroteezee” until he was in elementary school. He did not realize that he was spelling until years later, when he learned what the alphabet was.
I wish I would have known the confusion that I created for him when I automatically spelled our name when I announced our presence. I could have taught him more about letters and spelling at a young age, rather than assuming he was super smart.
Once I realized how quickly my children picked up on my actions, I was more careful about what I said and did. I did not want to cause confusion that they would have to sort out later in life.
As the kids grew older, I realized that I also needed to explain why I made certain decisions. They were smart and picked up on my thoughts, even though I did not share these inaudible ideas.
How are they doing this? How do they know my private thoughts?
I found my answer in the “thought cycle” that scientists have proven is in our brain. Our thoughts create our emotions. Emotions create our actions, and our actions create our results. These results, in turn, create more thoughts.
According to this cycle, if we do not like the results of something, we can trace it back to our thoughts. We need to change our thoughts if we want to change our results.
It is my emotion and action that my kids are observing. It is my words and attitudes that they are listening to closely. The danger lingers in the assumptions that they make when they imitate me. Their thoughts might be similar to how I think; however, there likely is a gap in their understanding. My innocent, silent thoughts are creating confusion within the little people that I want to influence positively.
We are the thinker, not the thoughts. Even though we have 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts that run through our minds every day, we choose what thoughts we want to dwell on.
Remember, the people we interact with know these thoughts based on our emotions, actions and results. Be intentional and accountable about your thoughts so that when your heirs imitate you, they make you proud and flattered.
Kathie Rotz is a leadership consultant and John Maxwell Certified Speaker, Trainer and Coach with Unity Consulting in Dubuque.