My parents had just come home from a farmer’s market and noticed an extra bag of peaches.
“You have to take these back,” my mom told my dad. “WE HAVE KIDS. We can’t keep something we didn’t pay for.”
My mother was putting her finger on an essential truth: Kids absorb the values they see adults putting into action.
Ever notice how quickly kids spot any inconsistency between what we say and what we do? Long before kids can spell “hypocrisy,” they notice when our actions fall short of our words.
“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you,” author Robert Fulghum says.
Kids need to see us “walking the talk.”
IN FACT, WE TEACH KIDS BEST WHEN WE PRACTICE “BEING WHAT WE WANT TO SEE” IN THEM.
If you volunteer in your child’s school, you might have noticed that savvy teachers practice “being what they want to see” in their students.
These teachers encourage respect by speaking respectfully to their students, even when correcting them. They teach self-control by sticking to “indoor voices” in the classroom, especially in situations that could provoke angry shouting.
“Being what we want to see” isn’t always easy – though perhaps it’s easier with other people’s children!
At home one day, I found myself shouting “STOP YELLING!” at the top of my lungs. I caught the inconsistency between my words and behavior about two seconds before my child commented on it.
OUR EXAMPLE POWERFULLY INFLUENCES OUR CHILDREN’S CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.
If we vent our anger through yelling, put-downs or sarcasm, that’s how our kids will learn to handle their anger.
I once heard a preschool teacher say that by listening to the children, she could tell exactly how their mothers spoke to their husbands!
If we respond to unpleasant situations with kindness, self-control and respect, then our kids will learn that.
Not all at once, and not perfectly. But surely.
And that extra bag of peaches?
Soon after my dad left to return them, the phone rang.
“We stopped by, but you weren’t home,” my grandmother said. “Did you get the bag of peaches we left you?”
We all shared a big laugh when my dad got home. And more than 35 years later, whenever a clerk makes an error in my favor, I remember the peaches.
Norma Schmidt, M.A., M.Div., is a parent of two and a former Lutheran minister with experience as a pastor and a cancer center chaplain. She gives workshops on parenting and on living with illness. To get her free report, “61 Great Ways to Teach Kids About Money,” visit www.ParentCafeOnline.com/pages/53/index.htm
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