There are a few children’s Sunday School songs that I look back on with … well, revulsion. This is one of them. The lyrics do contain pieces of biblical truth – namely, that we are accountable to God for our actions, and that God the Father loves us. But as a little kid who did not attach well on an emotional level to my parents, and especially to my dad, this song was more of a threat than anything else. Now, my dad has grown so much over the years, but back then, I viewed God like I viewed Dad – as someone who’d get very upset and angry if my “little eyes” were not careful enough.
So could I suggest different lyrics? How about this:
Oh, be careful, little eyes
Are watching me
Oh, be careful, little ears
Are hearing me
Yes, those little eyes and ears
They notice all my fears
Oh, be careful, ‘cause they see
And ‘cause they hear
Now, these are lyrics I can identify with. There are little eyes and ears – my daughters’ – that pick up on the things that my wife and I fear. Generally speaking, kids make their parents’ anxieties their own, carrying them into their futures. So if my wife and I fret a lot about money problems, our girls will tend to be anxious about financial security. If I’m frequently complaining about my spreading white hair, my daughters will tend to view white hair, and perhaps even aging, negatively. And the list could go on.
Children not only absorb our worries; they also adopt our habits. So if my girls never see my wife and I resolve conflict in a healthy way, they likely will not learn how to do it, either. Or if I were a driver that yells at other motorists, they’ll probably become aggressive drivers, too. And again, the list could go on.
Quite a bit of research suggests this is also true with body image and eating habits. If our girls hear us fretting about our weight, or complaining about how our clothes make us look fat, or worrying about when we’ll work off our Thanksgiving indulgences, then they’ll be more likely to develop unhealthy attitudes toward food and a negative body image. If they see us skipping meals to lose pounds, or obsessively counting calories, or eating only diet foods, then they’re more likely to do the same at some point as they grow up. Such habits make fertile ground for the rise of disordered eating.
If these are attitudes and habits of ours, then of course, we can cease and desist to help our kids. But it’s important to go further. We need to love ourselves enough to take care of our own unhealthy body image and food attitudes. Remember, taking care of ourselves also helps to take care of our kids.
There’s another song:
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
What are they seeing and hearing from you and me?
She Watches Me (Kellie Avery)
Helping Our Kids Escape the Perfection Trap (Eugene Hung)
My Mother’s Weight Log (Amy Schaller)