By Michael G. Rayel, MD
Like in most families, children are around you everyday. Whatever you show to your children is what you teach and impart to them regardless of your intentions. In the eyes of your children, you are a teacher. Everyday you are teaching "live" - whether you like it or not. You're like a walking lecture in your child's life.
What are you willing to show to your child? What are you going to teach your child through you? Do you want to be credible?
The Best Way to Teach is to Model What You Preach
Parenting articles and books tell us that we should be role models for our kids. However, finding a reliable source on how we can become one is a challenge. Being a role model is not an easy task. It requires determination, self-control, self- reflection, and discipline.
One of the best ways to become a role model is to simply practice what you preach. Obviously, you can't tell your child not to smoke or drink when you smoke a pack a day or you have several drinks before going to bed. Likewise, you appear phoney to your kids if you advise not to use foul language when you criticize or verbally abuse your spouse at the dinner table.
Your Teachings Should be Followed by Action
"Talk is cheap," as the saying goes. Your advice is of most value to your children if you back your pronouncements with action. I know a father who preaches to his children not to punch back if they are hurt by a playmate but the same father never hesitates to grab his kitchen knife every time his neighbour in the same apartment building makes a noise.
Show your children the behaviour that you want them to show to others. Talk the way you want them to talk to others.
If you want your child to practice self-control, then you have to show self-control yourself. If you expect household rules to be followed, then don't violate these rules yourself.
Don't Preach Anything that You are Willing to Violate
Don't make a household rule that you can't follow. Never make a rule that you intend to break if no one is watching. A rule is only effective if it is consistent and properly implemented.
A rule is designed to establish order and harmony in the household. If you constantly break household rules, you are probably better off not having them. Try to be realistic. Make a rule that is reasonable and that everyone, including yourself, can easily follow.
Don't Create Rules that You Intend to Break If They are Inconvenient
Don't make a rule that you plan to violate regularly at your convenience. A rule is created to serve as a guideline regardless of whether it's convenient or not. However, don't be totally inflexible. As you now, there are exceptions to the rules.
Occasionally, you have to be flexible to accommodate these exceptions. For instance, I have a rule that food should not be brought into the bedroom. However, when one of my children is sick, then this rule does not apply. I'm not saying that we should be flexible all the time. In essence, there should be a compelling reason to break a rule.
Make Role Modeling as Your Passion
Make role modeling as your interest and passion. Enjoy doing it. Practice and master it. Observe how you speak and behave in front of your family. Make sure that the behaviour you show is the same behaviour you want your kids to learn and that your speech should reflect what you want to hear from them.
You can't preach that they should be happy and enjoy life when you're grouchy all the time. You can't teach your children good moral values if you're making a plan on how to cheat your neighbour - in front of your children's watchful eyes.
In the eyes of your children, you are a hero. They love to hear you and watch you. They love to be around you. They even love to be like you.
So watch out. Your speech and behaviour becomes your child. Commend yourself if your children turn out to be good people. But don't blame anyone if they show inappropriate behaviour. Remember - they are just trying to imitate you.
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