One of the curses of being a parent is that suddenly your every action takes on a new meaning in the life of your child. Lose your temper with a waitress with your child at the table and suddenly they too will be demanding their chicken nuggets to be cooked to perfection at McDonalds. Feel impatient waiting in line at the grocery store, and your child will start pushing and shoving their way to the front of the line on the playground. The “do as I say, not as I do,” attitude doesn’t work – because children watch their parents and immediately assume that their actions are golden. Don’t believe it; ask any elementary school teacher about the things they hear their students repeat, straight from mom and dads mouths!
Just because you have children, doesn’t mean you are flawless. Since children live under your wing and under your roof most of the time, it is your behavior, personality and actions that mold the clay that becomes the statue of who they are. Sure, they have their own ingrained traits, quirks and ways – but mostly they are learning from you. And since you aren’t perfect, it is very important for your children to understand that not everything you do or say is what you expect from them.
The first step in helping children to be their very best and to be a good example for your child is to admit your mistakes. When you are wrong, you are wrong. If you yell at your child or treat someone unfairly, it is important to recognize that you did so. If you owe someone an apology, your child needs to hear it from you lest they become self righteous and indignant themselves. If you make a mistake, an error in judgment, tell a lie in front of little ears – you should admit your wrongdoing to your child, especially if they witnessed it. With your admittance of guilt, should also come the solution that you should have chosen should you have been in your right mind. You also may want to add a little string to your finger to remind you in the future that someone very special is watching you.
When children begin to see that their parents didn’t hang the moon, and that even they have faults and make mistakes – they are allowed to love themselves for their faults as well. Far too many children are held to such high standards of behavior that they become unforgiving with themselves and lose self-confidence and have hindered self worth. However, when even their mom or dad – who they look up to with such adoring eyes, makes a mistake, they will not feel so bad when they do. Along with admitting your wrong, you should also ask your child to forgive you. These two simple things – can make a huge difference in the life of a child as they grow into adulthood. Luckily, your child will be quick to forgive!
Being an example for your children is also about knowing there is a place and time for everything. Some conversations just shouldn’t be had in front of the kids. Whether you are at the ballpark, talking about another person they know, your spouse, money, your marriage etc. – there are some things that should be kept from your children. This doesn’t mean you have to be secretive, but at the very least discreet. Children overhear many things while you are on the cell phone, talking with another mom or at the store that are inappropriate and can cause fear. Plus, they hear you say things that aren’t nice about others - and then you turn around and tell them to be nice to people no matter what. This type of behavior can be confusing, and if they see mom and dad acting fake and two-faced, they will take on those traits as well. Eventually, as they gain life experience, they will learn how and why you act the way you do. For now however, it is best for them to believe that the world is a perfect place and that you abstain from negativity as much as possible.
One thing often overlooked when it comes to being an example to children is the need to be positive! Your worries, your fears, your preconceived notions, and all the other things that you have learned to be negative about in life do not have to become your child’s baggage. Perhaps of all the ways you are an example – this one has the most beneficial effect. When children see parents behaving positive, with an optimistic attitude, with a resiliency to giving up and throwing in the towel and a constant willingness to truly believe and feel that all is well in life…children become that way. When children see parents who are self confident, trusting and have faith – they too will take on these aspects. And this, is perhaps the most powerful way that a parent can be an example for their child. Children learn to quit from their parents. But they can also learn to persevere, to persist, and to find the true meanings of an abundant life by seeing things through your eyes and attitude. What an amazing gift to give a child?
In actuality, by learning and desiring to be a good example for your child, you can begin to live the life you really want as well. Parenthood is a good time to decide what kind of life and outlook you want. It is also a good time to decide what sort of impact you want to make on humanity and begin living in a way that makes you feel satisfied and peaceful. Whereas before your quick temper or loose tongue were inconsequential, you become a parent and realize how large of an impact you have! Being an example for your child is not always easy, but gives you the perfect opportunity to make changes in your own life that will affect you and your child positively.