Growing up with “do as I say, not as I do” was confusing. When I think back to my childhood (boy, am I’m aging myself), I can remember my parents smoking cigarettes, but forbidding me to ever try; I recall their using inappropriate language but threatening to wash my mouth out with soap if I ever did. Don’t get me wrong, my parents did a stellar job in raising my brother and I, and we had a wonderful childhood, but perhaps they weren’t paying attention to the fact that we were indeed watching.
We understood at a young age that we shouldn’t model their bad behaviors because the natural instinct for any parent was to protect their children from harm’s way. They only wanted the best for us, but as children, we only wanted to grow up and be just like them. So we absorbed it all; a blend of both good and bad traits.
When my children were small, sugary cereals and snacks, fast food, and carbonated drinks were daily indulgences for all of us. Twinkies, devils dogs, and Hostess cupcakes were family favorites. I reflect back with tremendous remorse (and huge dental bills to show for it) and question myself if it was ignorance, bad parenting, or both. But in my defense, health and nutrition were not held to the high standard that they are today, and back then every kid seemed to be romping along in happy candy land, on a perpetual sugar high. It was a repeat of my own childhood.
Now with the trendy rise of wellness and fitness consciousness, I have noticed a new generation of parents who are paying closer attention to healthy living. No more apple juice, soda, white bread, or unhealthy snacks. But they too, are making healthier choices, and living more wholesome lives. They are leading by example.
The ultimate challenge of successful parenting is being a positive role model for our children through our actions, because they really do speak louder than words. Instilling good values is so important but we must demonstrate them, not merely preach them. Teaching them to think for themselves, to make mistakes and learn from them, and be accountable for their actions are only some of the key ingredients for their success. These are sustaining life skills that they will utilize as they navigate through the world. Our objective is to prepare them for the many challenges they will face by providing them with the proper tools.
Undoubtedly, parenting is one of the most difficult roles we take on. There are no tutorials or standard manuals, and there are certainly no guarantees that great parents produce great kids.
There is no such thing as the “perfect” parent, but if we remember that our children are paying attention and receiving behavioral cues all the time, perhaps we can modify some of the bad habits they are apt to inherit. Here are some pitfalls;
- If you’re a bit messy and your clothes are strewn all over, don’t be surprised that your kids aren’t putting their toys away. It’s not their fault their things don’t have proper homes, it’s yours. Teach them about the benefits of being organized. It’s an essential tool they will utilize the rest of their lives.
- If you’re generally harried, disorganized, and struggle with punctuality, your kids are likely to miss the bus or be late for scheduled appointments. Or worse, just struggle with time-management in their adult lives.
- If you are a compulsive couch potato, perhaps your child will also prefer TV over other activities. Likewise, the avid reader will most likely encourage their children to enjoy reading too. Monkey see, monkey do.
- If you are not eating healthy or exercising regularly, they probably will be less inclined to do so for themselves.
- If you don’t recruit your family to help and share household responsibilities, they will not learn these skills.
- If you don’t use kind words and manage your temper, don’t expect your children to respect others. Don’t be shocked if they don’t play nicely with others.
- If you don’t set parameters, the lack of discipline might impact their adult life.
Unquestionably, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Children are so impressionable, so impress them. You are their role models so model good behavior. Lead by example. Plant those good habit seeds early, they will blossom well.
Influence. The goal is to nurture and protect your child, yet foster independence and self-esteem. Teach them well, love them hard, and they will thrive. As parents, one of the most gratifying jobs is to aid them in reaching their fullest potential. If you can do that, your work is done. You will have succeeded.
How would you measure success in your children? Ever wonder what kind of parents your children will grow up to be? Hmm…that could be very telling.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t make a difference whether our kids turn out to be exact mini versions of ourselves, happy hybrids, or completely unique. It only matters that they’re good apples. And the secret to that my friends, is all in the seeds.