The Company You Keep

Jul 02, 2024
By: Alexandra Murtaugh

If you have a toddler, or have had a toddler in the last 5 years, you may be familiar with YouTube sensation, Ms. Rachel. Ms. Rachel’s videos are developed using research-based approaches to early childhood learning and development and she is wildly popular among parents and young children alike. Over our recent Thanksgiving break, we often had Ms. Rachel on in the background as my kids played, climbed, read books, and built castles out of magnetic tiles. 

And an interesting thing happened— I started to realize that I began to take on a few of her approaches as I was interacting with my kids. I used a bit more parentese (the method of modulating speech sounds and tones when speaking to babies and toddlers) with my baby and toddler. I was more conscientious of my eye contact and gestures. Even with my older 2 children, who are 6 and 8, I calmly made sure I had their full engagement before asking them to do something. None of this is remarkably different from how I usually engage with my kids, but having it modeled in the background more often made me more inclined to consistently interact in this way. Now to be fair, the approaches Ms. Rachel takes in her videos already align with my parenting values, which is part of the reason I’m comfortable playing them in our house. However, being exposed to a model of positive communication regularly had an unexpected positive impact on the way I was engaging with my kids. 

We spend so much time thinking about the kind of modeling we are providing for our kids that we don’t often think about the ways in which our environment impacts our own communication. This is why it’s so important to be intentional about the kind of people we surround ourselves with. While we don’t always have control over the family we have in our lives, we do have control over the way we spend our time. If we spend a lot of time with folks whose parenting and communication styles don’t align with our own, we’re going to find ourselves having more moments of cognitive dissonance when we try to parent our kids. If something as simple as videos played in the background can impact how we speak to our children, think about how much more impactful that can be if it’s people we care about in the background. 

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