Thursday, August 14, 2014

“Do as I say, not as I do”

Such an innocuous phrase, “Do as I say, Not as I do”. I’d never really given it much thought, that is, until I became a parent. When you’re a parent, your children almost exclusively “do as you do” by default. That’s how they are wired. It’s kind of intimidated knowing that everything I do is being observed and very likely will be copied. This of course also means that what other people do and say around my kids is also probably going to be copied. This is, to say the least, pretty overwhelming. Wouldn’t it be nice and simple if they just did what we said to do and were unaffected by any “bad” examples around them…
I’ve been a parent for a few years now and it still amazes me when I see how my kids learn, not how they are taught, but how they learn. From the moment they are born they are the ultimate imitators! They see you smile at them and once they figure out those facial muscles, they smile right back at you. I don’t know how many times I’ve laughed at each and every one of my little ones pretending to yammer away on a phone shaped object. My children have even come up with their own fake cough to copy my own before they could sit up…funny, I know…
Basically; gestures, facial expressions, walks, habits (good and bad), attitudes (good and bad), choice of words (good and bad!!), spiritual awareness, racial feelings, respect…all these things and more are learned through example. That’s not to say that they cannot be or aren’t taught as well, it’s just that learning by example is as easy as breathing for children.
I can tell my children till I’m blue in the face that they need to be patient with each other, but if I run around losing my temper with them and showing them my lack of patience, the odds are it’s going to come right back out at me! If I start swearing around my kids, even if it’s not at them, they will learn to use that kind of language. I can teach them not to use it, but they will have already learnt it and they are very likely to use it around their peers at school or out in the forest when I’m not around.

I take the knowledge of what I do and say being so closely watched very seriously. Probably too seriously at times, but it is so very important to remember. I want to lead by example and be proud of that example, however, it is difficult having my oldest become more conscious and susceptible to outside influences. Here is where my lifelong control issues are really put to the test. I’ve always been able to shape and regulate to a very close degree what my children have seen, heard or are generally aware of. That ability is going to continue to recede as my daughter gets older and is more and more outside of my sphere of influence. It’s tough; I’m not going to lie.  I am not by any stretch of imagination a “helicopter parent”. Yet, when it comes to television, music, language, lifestyles and various depravities in the world my husband and I have tried to shield our children’s innocence as much as possible. I just don’t see how being familiar with news stories about rape, or the lifestyle choice to “divorce” because “they just weren’t in love any-more” could be beneficial. But; due to the gradually increased exposure to some of these things I have recently had some rather challenging conversations with my oldest daughter. She has questions and I am grateful that she is comfortable asking her dad and me about these things that she has seen and heard. That doesn’t necessarily make those conversations any easier though.  As I come face to face with the evolving reality of parenting a pre-teen in a rather scary world I realize that I will not always have control or even influence. My husband and I could be the absolute perfect examples to our kids and they would still see so much that would affect them in school, in church, in community and even extended family. I hope and pray every day that the people whom have influence in my kids’ lives are good and wholesome people that will “rub off” on them in a good way. I also hope that we will have given them a strong moral compass that will always point them in the right direction no matter who or what might be encouraging them otherwise. 

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you seem to have learned more by our instruction than by our oft less than ideal example. Great blog - you go girl!! - Baba