Sometimes we forget that our kids are like sponges; soaking up everything we say and do – often without us even realising it.
Thats why we parents need to really think about how our own attitudes might be affecting the kids and what information they are getting from us about how to ‘be in the world.
What words do we choose? Do we use our manners? Are we thoughtful and considerate? Are we respectful of others, the law and the environment? Do we eat healthy foods? Do we exercise? What does the way we dress say about us? Do we use appropriate language around the kids? Are we kind to animals? Do we get involved in the community? Do we support our childs school? Are we consistent with our discipline? Are we good sports?
Our attitudes to these things (and much, much more) will often be the same attitudes that our children will adopt – even if we say we want the opposite. Thats because kids will do what we do but not necessarily what we say!
We can say to little Tommy, “Dont use bad language!” But if we swear and curse the next time something upsets us, what is the message little Tommy is getting? Yup! Hes getting the message that Mum or Dad does it, so it must be OK.
While it may seem a little ‘old fashioned to insist on perfect manners or to shut down rude words, the truth is that kids who have manners and behave in a respectful way towards others are more likely to get what they want and need from life. Theyre automatically ahead of the game because people are more likely to help them get what they need. Surely thats exactly what we want for our kids, isnt it? But is that what we are setting them up to get? Are todays kids any happier, safer or healthier because parents have ‘moved with the times and allowed the rules to be sidestepped or forgotten?
I think not. In fact, the increase in violent and self-destructive behaviours – often involving young people – should be ringing loud alarm bells that all is not right with many of todays kids. Every day there are more sad news story about attacks, vandalism, drunkenness, sexualised behaviour or young people generally showing disrespect for themselves or others.
And, yes, it must be acknowledged that there are a lot of outside influences also affecting todays kids (think media!) making parenting an even harder job. Our kids are Twittering, blogging, MSNing, surfing the internet; seeing and hearing a mind-boggling array of information; and not all of it positive or appropriate.
But the good news is that we parents still do have the power! We just need to remember that respect, consideration, proper boundaries and watching our own actions, words and attitudes are the keys. With a little thought we can all raise people who make us, and themselves, proud.
(And the really great news is that you dont have to be a perfect parent to do a great job. Which is just as well or I would have been in BIG trouble!)