Engage by Example
Engage by example is something I think we as parents should think about. I believe we all want our kids to make good, healthy decisions. The question is, do we make good decisions for ourselves?
As parents, we are the primary role models for our kids. They see and hear everything we do and say. We may think they can't get anything past us. Guess what? Things we do as parents doesn't get past them, either.
Maybe you are thinking "What is she talking about? We are the parents... we know better." The reality is, we are only an older, sometimes wiser, form of kid. As "grown up kids", we either replicate the parenting styles of our own parents, or we may parent in the complete opposite manner of how we were parented.
Some food for thought: When you go out to dinner as a family, do you occasionally have an alcoholic beverage or two? If Mom and Dad are both having a drink, then what? Aren't we guilty of grabbing the car keys and driving our family home? Our kids see that. They may not make the connection that it is inapppropriate when they are younger, but soon enough they will learn that it is. Even though one drink will probably not put us "over the limit," isn't it a good idea to model the concept that no alcohol should be consumed in any amount if you plan to drive? (The option of calling a cab is certainly modeling responsibility).
Do we sometimes talk on our cell phones, text or even eat while driving? Do we drive faster when we are late or get mad when we hit every red light? How do we act when someone cuts us off or takes the last parking spot that we were honestly waiting for? How do we show or model confrontation, and what do we do or use to relieve our stress?
I think a lot of what we expect from our kids we often can't do for ourselves. There is only one word that comes to mind: "hypocrisy." I've done it and I sometimes still do it. The difference is now I recognize it. I'm not saying by any means I've got it all figured out, just that now I'm more aware of the model I truly am and the impression I have on my children. When these situations arise, they can become "teachable, talkable" moments.
Showing our children that as parents -- as human beings -- we make mistakes, can only empower and release "expectational stress" on our kids. After many talks with many children, it has come to my attention that kids have been "programmed", or led to believe that their parents have never made mistakes. Could that be why there is a lack of communication between parents and kids? It's got me curious. If we set an unrealistic example of perfection, we have left no room to learn from mistakes. Mistakes are viewed as "bad", when in reality, it is through those mistakes that we grow and learn as individuals. Mistakes are character-building. Explaining to our children that we are aware of changes we need to make to ensure safety -- or even the simple act of demonstrating humility -- can not only empower them, but will also model skills for them to develop and pass on to their own children.