Small children can’t help learning – millions of new neural connections per second are made as they explore every aspect of the world around them. Their own abilities.- physical, mental, emotional and relational – develop at a rapid pace in the first 1000 days of life. A few hours with a pre-schooler is like watching a miracle unfold. Hold that thought as your toddler throws a tantrum yet again!

My dad used to say ‘don’t do as I do, do as I tell you’. He was not a teacher, which is just as well. In the navy he had no choice except to obey orders, so becoming a parent was probably a challenge, as his previous experience did not exactly fit with his new role. When I didn’t do what he asked as a two-year-old, I was apparently not showing him the respect he was entitled to! He was wise enough not to demand it and usually left most of the actual parenting to my mum.

Most families do not spend much time with little ones before their own children arrive and it is often a question of trial and error, hoping they don’t do much damage in the process. It’s a complex and ever-changing task but this blog just deals with one thing: the models we are providing for our children to follow.

Children learn how to be in the world by watching, listening, and copying. The people they are most likely to copy are those with whom they have a strong relationship – family, teachers, and peers. If a small child lets out a stream of swear words they are simply repeating what they have heard. Similarly, if they mutter ‘oops’ when food lands on the floor they have learnt other ways of handling challenges!

So what models are we offering our children? How are we helping them navigate this complex world into which they have been born? Can they see us responding calmly in a crisis, but also showing it is OK to be upset sometimes. Do we talk about others with warmth and appreciation? Do families share what needs to be done at home? Are we showing that solving problems is possible and that there are useful ways of thinking about how to get to solutions?

It is sad that I never got to tell my dad how much I learnt from him. He treated everyone equally and with respect and made it clear that what he expected from his kids was to DO their best, not BE the best. This learning and these values have been threaded through my life. He did more than he ever knew by being a role model.