Children learn things from birth. A newborn learns quickly that crying can bring relief – from hunger, wet diapers, and loneliness. As they age, children pick up on cues from adults. They learn our facial expressions, hear our words, watch us as we handle everyday tasks, and mimic our behaviors.

Many parents have no idea how much their own behavior impacts their children. As a matter of fact, sometimes a parent can treat their child as if he/she was deaf, dumb, and blind. A little person's ears, mind, and eyes work very well in most cases and lead the child to understandings an adult can't always imagine.

For instance, the other day in the grocery store, I overheard a mother telling her friend that her ex-husband is a "lazy bum." All the while, the woman's 6-year-old son was standing by the cart, listening. As the mother ranted and raved about lack of child support and poor parenting issues on the part of the child's Dad, the little boy took it all in with a sad look on his face.

It was all I could do to stand behind this woman in line and not say something. However, I've learned my lesson about giving unwanted advice. I figured that if I said something like, "Ma'am, do you know that your son is listening to you as you trash-talk his Dad?" she might have been offended and I would have ended up in a prickly situation. So, I kept my mouth shut.

One can only imagine what that mother says about her ex-husband in the comfort of her own home if she is spewing such hatred in the grocery line. Her son must think highly of both his parents. He's most likely confused and upset. I'm hoping that when the boy is with his father, the Dad doesn't also trash-talk the Mom. But, based on past experience, I'm fairly sure it happens.

I've also heard parents scream and yell about teachers in front of their children. When your Dad says, "Mrs. Jones is rotten to give you all this homework. I'm going to call the principal and report her," do you think you'd have respect in Mrs. Jones's classroom? Or, how about when your Mom calls your teacher by her first name all the time and says things such as "Harriet was a wild girl when she was in high school. She did a lot of crazy things." Surely, that will help your daughter respect Mrs. Harriet Jones, won't it?

Now, dear reader, I'm not saying that teachers should give loads of homework or that Harriet's past should be totally forgotten. All I'm saying is that it's not smart to erode the respect that your child should have for his/her teacher. If you disagree with something, be quiet about it at home and call the teacher and/or the principal to fix it. Your child doesn't need to know the workings of the adult mind.

The old adage "Children should be seen and not heard" should be changed in this current environment. Now it should read "Children should be seen and not hear anything." Their little ears don't need to be assaulted with adult problems.

(IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH798@SC.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.)