UNITED KINGDOM: Parenting by Example
I have been pondering this topic a lot just recently, it’s a biggie. We have a massive responsibility as parents to raise our children to be good citizens. To help them to develop the character traits that will make for a well-rounded adult, you know the kind of things.
We feel we ought to help them to be loving, tolerant, resilient, kind, honest, courageous, patient, responsible and self-disciplined. Realistically those are just a few of the traits many of us want our child to display, some parents will be looking for a high level of competitive spirit leading to academic achievement or sporting success and others are much more interested in their child displaying empathy and nurturing others.
Whatever it is you want your child to develop or display the scary realism is that you need to be demonstrating it to them, as children learn what they live.
We cannot just tell them how we would like them to be and hope they do not notice our actions nor replicate our imperfections, sadly that just does not work. Have you ever seen the poem by Dorothy Law Nolte? She wrote it back in 1972 but it is as relevant now as it was then. Have a read:
I try to read this poem regularly as I believe every parent should, because it reminds me that to display the positive and to affirm is so much more powerful than to criticise. Even when that criticism is done with good meaning ‘Oh Jenny, you got a B grade, that is very good but I know you can get an A if you try a little harder’.
Do you know what Jenny hears? She hears I’m not good enough. Isn’t that worrying? It is such a fine balance to parent in a way that encourages the child to stretch themselves and to achieve all they can whilst also leaving their sense of self-worth intact.
A good example of children learning what they live was demonstrated to me the other day by one of my 7-year-old girls when they were in the car with me. We were driving along and someone stopped in front of me due to a traffic jam, it was perfectly acceptable to do so, and I had no issue with it. Quick as a flash Miss E shouts ‘Oi, get a move on, we’re in a hurry you idiot’. To say I was shocked is an understatement. Firstly, we were not in a hurry, secondly, I never use the word idiot, and thirdly, this is my quieter child!
‘Where on earth did that come from Miss E?’ I ask her and she starts to look a little sheepish. ‘Well, Mummy’ pipes up her more vocal twin sister ‘when we were coming home from gymnastics last week and that man nearly made you crash, you shouted at him and told him he was stupid’. Ah yes, I remember that and start to state my case ‘but Miss M that man was driving the wrong way in a car park and came out of nowhere driving far too fast and…’ and then I tail off. It is true the situation was different (to an adults eyes), but to the child, all they had learnt was that if someone drives a car in a way you don’t like you shout abuse at them. Whoops, parenting fail!
It is a tough learning curve, this parenting lark, but if we are willing to persevere and learn from our children we will grow better at it, but boy does it take some work. I know for sure it is worth it though. Thank you for all you teach me my babies. This mummy will keep on trying her best, and I’m sure I’ll muck up again but do you know what? That is OK, as long as I acknowledge it and apologise because then I am teaching my kids one of the most important messages, that it is OK to mess up and then try again. We all make mistakes and we can all move on.
How about you, any good learning you want to share with us?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Michelle Pannell of Mummy from the Heart