By Nichole Giles
Have you ever heard the term, “Do as I say, not as I do”? Obviously, I know what it means. But lately I’ve had lots of reason to think about this very phrase.
It occurs to me that every minute I spend with my children is a teaching moment, even when I’m not aware of it. For instance, when I curl up with a book rather than turning on the TV, my kids feel the urge to grab a book of their own. And when I take time to write, they often get out paper and pencil and write their own stories. If I—thinking no one is around—sneak up to my daughter’s room to sing karaoke to her army of stuffed animals, eventually, all my kids, and some of their friends, join me.
And to their credit, they never laugh.
These are good things. Things I am proud to teach them. But everything has its opposite, and here is where my fear lies. If my self-image is bad, theirs will be too. If I use bad grammar, or offensive language, so will they. (Luckily, I am a language conscious person.) And the actions I take in a given situation, are likely actions they will take later in life when they find themselves in a similar situation.
Take another example. I know of a few teenaged boys who—upon being provoked and extremely irritated—ganged up on, and physically assaulted a nine-year-old girl. Instead of storming to the boys’ house and returning the favor—so to speak—the parents of this girl passed the responsibility of punishment to the parents of the boys involved. Sadly, only the parents of one boy took any action. The other two boys remained untouched, having blamed the girl for their disgusting actions. The girl’s parents were saddened by this news, and—as soon as the boiling fury settled—began to wonder how these boys could think it is ever, EVER, okay to hit a girl. Especially one much younger, and smaller, than them.
Ultimately, the truth in this situation is heartbreaking. Because it is possible, and even likely, that each of these boys learned that particular lesson from a member of his own family.
The moral of the story? Our children are watching us. They want to be like us. They trust in the things we do and say, the books we read and music we listen to, the clothing we wear, and the people with which we associate. They see. And whether we—or they—realize it or not, they’re taking it all in.
Think back. Did you shape the course of a life today?
If you need a little practice, I might be willing to let you borrow my daughter’s karaoke machine. I’m telling you, those microphones lure neighborhood children faster than the Pied Piper.