Parenting 101: NEVER think that you are going to convince your child to do something that they regularly see you NOT do.
I have a beautiful daughter. She is the apple of my eye. Sometimes when I’m having an off day at work I sit back and look with wide-open eyes at the pictures on my desk of my wife and my daughter. This is usually enough to help me remember why I’m glad to be gainfully employed. Yet, it also reminds me of the responsibility of parenting.
Being a parent has a way of lending itself to vicarious living.
Without even trying there is some part of “us” that says, “I want to make sure my child has this.” Or, In my case, “I want to make sure my child never has to deal with that.” That, in this sentence, is sickness. I literally hate it when my daughter is sick. Drives me nuts! Hearing her let out a dry cough or watching her nose running is like ripping the eyelids from my face. Painstaking agony! If I didn’t know better I’d believe that my nose was running and my throat was atching to.
So what do I do?
What any good parent does. I wrap the child in extra clothes. I put her to bed with socks on. I beg my wife to put a hat on her head even though I know it will mess up her hair. Most importantly, I tell the child to make sure she always washes her hands.
This year I’ve made a point of it. Everytime the child gets near a bathroom I tell her, “You have to wash your hands.” She can fake cough and she’s back in the bathroom again washing those palms to perfection.
Sadly, I finally figured out the problem. It wasn’t my speeches. My delivery was solid. My points were clear. In the words of Chris Tucker, my daughter understood every word coming out of my mouth. No, the problem was my example before her. I never wear socks to bed. I’m not a fan of hats. I like coats but I hate to be wrinkled so depending on what I’m wearing I may carry my outer clothing instead of put them on. The kicker, I sporadically washed my hands at best.
Before you get totally grossed out. Yes, I wash my hands before I eat. And yes, I wash my hands after I use the rest room. However, I don’t always wash my hands immediately following a sneeze/cough or coming in contact with other people who may be sick. I just let it ride. I know it. My daughter knows it to.
I hope after all of that you didn’t think I was just talking about washing my hands. My daughter sees my communication with my wife. Am I always calm and relaxed saying please and thank you? My daughter sees me when I don’t share the remote control so we all can watch something together. My daughter sees me walk on the carpet with my shoes on. She sees my clothes on the floor in the closet. She sees my shoes tossed at the bottom of the stairs instead of neatly arranged. She sees, she learns, and she imitates. She’s three and she’s forming habits. Daddy’s habits.
Which ones that she will pick I don’t know.
If my words don’t align with my actions eventually she’ll get old enough to know how to say the word hypocrite and know what it means. I don’t want her to have to use this word on me.
So since I tell my child to say please and thank you, I’m making sure I say the same. I’m washing my hands more. I’m sharing more. I’m neatly putting up my shoes. I’m wearing my coat and hat (even though it messes up my hair). I’m hanging up my clothes in the closet.
Think about it. What are you telling your kids to do that you’re not doing yourself? If you don’t have kids then what habits do you have that you would never want your future potential kids to imitate?
Share with the group.
P.S. Pray that someday I’ll learn how to share the remote control. That’s a doozy, lol.