7 ways to parent through your example (Pt 1)
You know the scariest part of parenting?
They might not hear a word you say. But they don’t miss a deed you do.
Who I am and what I do will ultimately mark the kind of people my children become. They tend to receive not just my physical genetic, but my moral and lifestyle genetic too. The instinct to follow my example is evidenced by my kids when they put my shoes on.
In a previous post I gave 3 reasons that setting a good example for your kids is at the heart of the parenting task…
1. What your kids will ultimately remember about you is not what you did for them, but who you were.
2. What they will become is what you are.
3. Your offspring’s capacity to trust you and others hangs in the balance.
There’s no doubt about it. My greatest guidance of my 5 children is not what I tell them, but who I am.
Seven ways to set an example for your kids.
1. Walk your talk.
When your talk is an instruction, practice what you preach. When your talk is a promise, keep your word. Trust and respect is built when your actions line up with your words, and when your deeds line up with your creeds.
Our children tend to walk in the paths we have walked in. And not just the paths we point them to, but the ones we actually tread on everyday, the ones we unknowingly forge through our habits and thinking patterns.
‘Fynn, stop dipping your hand in the cereal box!’
‘But, dad, you do it.’
Checkmate. Anything I say next will be like water off Fynn’s back. He won’t stop until I do.
Many times I’ve told my kids to be nice to each other after I have scratchily spoken to their mom. The sibling-fight goes on. I wonder why?
2. See what’s missing in your kids, then work on it in your own life.
Want to take the speck out of their eye? First, take the plank out of yours.
My mom-in-law was a school teacher for years. She noticed that bad-mannered kids tended to have bad-mannered parents. Want well-mannered kids? It starts with you.
If I want them to respect their mom … greet people … be generous … break their sugar-addiction … stay physically active … not be a workaholic … control their temper … not swear, it all begins with me showing them how.
Parenting author Adele Faber says that we should model the behavior we’d like to see in our kids. Is your child a bad loser? Well, next time you lose a game, say, ‘It’s hard to lose, but I’ll try to be a sport about it. Congratulations!’
‘If you want your child to say ‘please’, say it yourself. If you don’t want your child to raise her voice, speak quietly and gently yourself’, echoes Linda Pearson in her classic, ‘The Discipline Miracle’.
Kari Kampakis joins the choir on this one: ‘How I handle rejection and adversity… how I treat friends and strangers… whether I nag or build up their father… they notice these things. And the way I respond gives them permission to act the same. If I want my children to be wonderful, I need to aim for wonderful, too. I need to be the person I hope they’ll be’.
3. Ask yourself what you really value.
We know that our attitude is infectious. If I am positive, I can lift the mood of others. Conversely, my negativity casts a gloominess upon bystanders.
What we don’t realize is that our values are just as contagious. If I have measles, and I breathe on someone with the words ‘I have mumps’, what do you think they will catch from me?
In the same way, if I tell my kids, ‘Care for other people’ but what I really value is, ‘Win at whatever cost’, what are they going to catch?
Look around – our kids have caught the ‘Win at whatever cost’ virus already. We live in a dog-eat-dog world. Wherever did they catch this diseased value of walking over others?
Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist, says they caught it from you. He runs the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind. In a massive survey, he was shocked to discover that about 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that ‘My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school’.
What do we really value? Is life really about coming first? Is it really about seeing what we can get from others, not what we can give to them?
We can sing songs of caring and sharing over our kids all you want, but if we’re sick, they’ll be sick too.
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In my next post, I will give four more ways to parent through example.
Also published on Medium.