“Do as I say, not as I do!” Most adults at some point in their parental journey feel they have earned the right to be this way. After all, you are an adult. And when you were a kid, you had to listen to the adults in your life. They would tell you not to use curse words, yet would curse like a sailor in your presence, right? The truth is that most of us are hypocritical parents. And just as drinking ages are set for a reason – there are simply some things in life that you cannot do until you are a certain age. Or are at least living under your own roof, making your own choices and dealing with your own consequences. Life is compiled of many moments that serve as rites of passages into adulthood. And the bottom line is that children and adults are NOT created equal. (For good reasons too!)
The problem is that according to child development experts most behavior is learned by modeling. You can certainly teach your kids manners, and you can certainly teach your kids how to act in public and how to treat people. You, as a parent – can even set boundaries about what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Yet, if you yourself do not MODEL these behaviors, your children will be taking their cues about how to behave from you.
Case in point. Did you know that children who grow up with smoking parents are 3 times more likely to smoke as adults than kids who grow up with non-smokers? Did you know that children who grow up in welfare home environments are 40 times more likely to be low wage earners themselves as adults and rely on government assistance? Did you know that OVER 50% of children growing up in homes with domestic violence will experience domestic violence in their own lives as adults? Statistics that indicate children are more prone to ‘modeling’ behavior are consistent in nearly every facet of life – from the age of first childbirth to the chances of divorce and everything in between.
This seems to certify that in life, when it comes to parents and children – the apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree. And how could it?
If your child grows up in an environment where negative things are considered ‘the norm,’ how are they supposed to know better? Isn’t it sort of backwards to tell your child not to smoke, not to curse, not to be lazy – if parents are modeling that exact behavior in their own homes day in and day out? While your child may not be ALLOWED to do those things in the here and now, what is to stop them from thinking these things are normal when they get older. And how do children learn to do better than their own parents do if the behavior is never modeled for them? The answer is, they don’t!
Certainly, being a hypocritical parent is a necessary to your child’s safety and wellbeing. There is no way to justify allowing your toddler to stay up all night and watch television just because mom and dad do it. Your teenage son shouldn’t be allowed to smoke at 13, just because YOU do. It is a parent’s job to teach children right from wrong and to give them a home life that is consistent and filled with positive inclinations toward their future best interests. And it is important for parents to instill good values in their children and to be a living example of the life they want their child to lead.
Parents should pay attention to their actions.
If mom is rude to waiters and waitresses, shows intolerance for other people, has inclinations toward racism, or walks around being angry all the time – it is a bit difficult to not tolerate these same behaviors from their child. If you as a parent are sitting around eating junk food and candy bars for dinners, it is sort of conflicting to limit your child’s food choices to a sampling from a living food diet. After all, your children are watching you polish off a bag of Cheetos while watching television – what motivator do they really have to eat apples and go play in the yard?
The bottom line is that as a parent you have to be completely aware of the fact that YOUR CHOICES IN LIFE, BECOME YOUR CHILD’S CHOICES
You also have to realize that while you are blowing off a bunch of hot air and telling them the right and wrong way to live their lives; your children are WATCHING you and will eventually be modeling YOUR behavior.
True, you have earned the right to drink a beer or two (or 3 or 4) as an adult. You should be able to stay up as late as you want to. You are entitled to a cuss word. But the best thing for you to do is to explain to your children why you make the choices for yourself that you do, point out how your choices are responsible and explain why things are okay for YOU and not for them. Saying, “Do as I Say, not as I do,” or “Because I said so,” does not enable your children to make positive choices for themselves later in life.
Nobody expects parents to be perfect and to model flawless behaviors all of the time. As a rule however, you should try to practice what you preach when it comes to your children, and make sure that you aren’t simply adopting the hypocritical parenting oath that will leave your child confused later in life.