Always Practice What You Preach

Like father, like son. You must have heard this phrase very often. It is very true that there is a tendency for children to grow up to be a lot like their parents. Physical attributes, looks, mannerisms, temperaments, and even habits can be alike. The two main factors that are responsible for these are the genes and the environment. Parents pass on the genes to the children. Hence, genes are the factors that can affect their physical traits and behavior (positively or negatively) to an extent. You can do nothing much to control the genetics part. But you surely can focus on the environment to make sure that your children grow up to be the best they can be. What you say and how you act, behave, and react and in their presence say a lot about what they would grow up to be. So you better watch out your own behavior.

We often talk about disciplining our children. But as parents, we should realize that before disciplining them, we should first discipline ourselves. “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it.” said Clarence B. Kelland. This stands good for all the parents. Children learn a great deal about behavior and character by watching, observing, and following your behavior. Hence, don’t try to get them to follow the “do as I say, not as I do” approach. It will not work! Remember, kids may or may not listen to your words, but they always pay attention to your actions. Studies have shown that children who show disrespect to others usually have an adult role model at home—either you or your spouse, or both. Before you lash out or blow your top in front of your children, think if that is how you want your children to behave when they are angry.

We are parents, but we are also human. We also make mistakes, but we should be quick learners and learn from others mistakes too. Most of the time our kids do not make a bad situation worse, it is us who do it. If we are good parents and want to set a good example, admit that you made a mistake—first to yourself and then to your children. Then try to set it right.  Agreed, it is not simple as you may think it to be. To achieve this means that you should be a person of strong character, with no trace of false ego. You can always tell your son to remain calm every time he feels like screaming and shouting when he sees some one, specially his younger sibling meddling with his gadgets. But controlling your own anger when he does something you don’t approve is a challenge that you should first take on. When your son sees you react in that particular situation, he will know that can do the same. When you expect him to remain calm, he might listen to you because he has seen you do that very often.

I clearly remember an incident which took place when my daughter was six. I had come back from office a bit too tired. There were a lot of things going on in my mind regarding work, a really tense situation. I was overseeing my daughter’s studies. In between she got up and started doing something else. I all my frustration, I screamed at her and told her that she was being irresponsible and said some things about good and disciplined approach. She looked at me, picked her books, and went to her room. In a while I calmed down and was upset with myself for my outburst and behaviour.

After about half an hour my little one came to me with a glass of water and asked me if I felt better? I felt so ashamed at that moment. I took the glass of water, took a few sips, hugged her and apologized to her. I said, “I think I am tired and I over reacted. I am sorry for my behavior.” Very calmly, she told me, “That’s ok mom, you usually get angry when you are tired and stressed. Today, you were probably too tired and very stressed out.”   

I told her that irrespective of what I felt, I should have controlled my feeling. I actually carried my professional burden into my house and spoiled the calmness there.  I told her that I should not have done it.

I have heard some parents say, “So what? I am the parent, I shall do what I want to, but you are still a child and have to behave like one.” What rubbish? There is no worse way to mislead your children and steer them into wrong behavior yourself. You can’t teach your sons to drink responsibly if they see a drunken dad who drinks anytime of the day saying that he gets alcohol out of his own money. How can you impart the lesson of calming down when you yourself scream and shot for trivial reasons? You cannot tell your kids to respect their elders when you are constantly picking fights with your in-laws. But accepting your mistake and apologizing for your misbehavior sets and example to your children and teaches them to do the same.

If you really want to see a positive change in your kid, then you first have to begin working on your own transformation. The characteristic of a role model is to practice what you preach and set an example for your kids. Sometimes, as parents we often make the mistake of not listening properly, jumping to conclusions, and making hasty decisions. Most of the time, our children suffer because of it. Think of the traits you wish to cultivate in your child—respect, friendliness, honesty, kindness. Exhibit these behavior yourself—express thanks, offer compliments, tell truth. Above all, treat your children the way you expect other people to treat you.

So in short, what should good parents do?

  • When you make a mistake:
    • Don’t lie about it.
    • Don’t ignore it like it didn’t happen.
    • Don’t cover it up.
    • Don’t justify saying that you are a parent.
  • Don’t throw a temper tantrum.
  • Take responsibility for your own actions.
  • Try to make amends for the wrong.
  • Maintain a calm respectful disposition.

When parenting, practice what you preach and the results will be a lot better.

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