What Life Lessons Are You Teaching Your Children?
We don't stop often enough to reflect upon the messages we send our children through our words and actions—even the expressions on our face. Yet, we impact our children's understanding of themselves and the world they live in every single day by our behavior.
What we say, as we all know, means far less than what we do.
A common habit which we all have today is using our smartphones around our children. But it's not just about smartphones.
We can replace the smartphone analogy with any bad habit we have or activity we do regularly that is unnecessary, has little benefit—may even cause harm—and is not a useful or good habit.
I'm choosing the smartphone because using it around our kids is a habit most of us can relate to.
The bad habit scenario looks like this: we're texting on our smartphone, or maybe we're reading a long post, our child asks for something, we continue texting or reading, our child begins to whine, we continue looking at our phone, we tell him to go away until we're done. And this happens many times throughout the day.
Wouldn't you throw your phone away in a heartbeat if you thought your child would grow up to think technology took precedence over people's needs?
Of course, you would. I know I would.
But our kids will think just this if we give our phones more importance and that's exactly what happens when those minutes add up to hours and the hours add up to days and maybe even weeks and months. And, sadly, our kids will probably grow up to repeat the same pattern with their children.
A bad habit repeated until someone decides enough is enough.
Again, I'm using the smartphone as an example, but you can replace it with anything you want to stop doing or start doing that will make you a better parent / teacher / person by the habits you practice.
I'm not suggesting we should cater to our child's every whim—no, absolutely not—but spending too much time on our phone, for example, is like sitting around watching television all day.
Most of us would consider watching a lot of television negligent and indulgent; lacking all self-discipline because we know better. But somehow smartphones and other bad habits slip through the cracks, and we don't think twice about them.
We need to reflect on our habits because it's easy to go through life oblivious to things that seem inconsequential at the moment, but with time they become lessons we teach our children, for better or for worse.
Let's take inventory of our habits; the things we think, say, and do—are they messages that will serve us and serve our children well over time?
If not, let's work to replace those bad habits with good habits.
Be specific with ourselves about precisely what bad habit we are replacing with what good habit, so every time we find ourselves falling back into the bad one, we can quickly self-correct by replacing it with the good habit.
Start with one bad habit, conquer it, and then choose another. To try and tackle many bad habits at once would be to invite defeat. One step at a time in replacing the bad with the good while we adopt better habits for ourselves.
It's not until our children are grown and have developed their own values and beliefs that we discover some of ourselves in the conclusions they've adopted about life.
I'll leave you with something my 18-year-old son said that made me laugh. He's a funny fellow and often says amusing things. As I was writing this, I asked him, in his opinion, what was the #1 mistake that most parents made?
His reply: "Having kids."
While he was being humorous, we all know that having children is a responsibility and a lot of work.
We'll naturally become more effective parents if we become aware of the little things we do that add up to the big lessons we teach.
With this in mind, what bad habit would you like to conquer to become a better parent?
Elizabeth Y. Hanson teaches parents the secrets and skills to raising brighter children with a focus on getting the early years right. She is the founder of Smart Homeschooler™ and has been a consultant and researcher in children’s education since 2001.
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