As I was interviewed for an article, I was asked, “What is the most difficult job you have accomplished?” My response was, “Being a parent, it is the most difficult and rewarding job of my life.” Parenting does not come with a recipe for success. The good news is that most people turn out to be decent, I believe, regardless of parental efforts. Fortunately, they get exposed to a world of people who contribute to their development as well.
The parental home is the initial introduction to human behavior and development. Our children mimic things we do. When my son was four-years old, I watched as he soaped his face and scraped it off of his chin with a toothbrush. Clearly, he was recapturing the shaving process he’d seen his father do every morning so I bought him a toy shaving kit so he wouldn’t have to use his toothbrush. It was a natural and innocent behavior that he would need to learn and so we supported it.
On a loftier note, there are certain actions that we don’t want our children to mimic even though as parents we engage in them. Instead, “Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity they think of you,” says H. Jackson Brown, Jr. I never believed in the adage “Do as I say, not as I do” that some parents say to their children. Children are born into this world with innocent curiosity and a willingness to learn. Parents are responsible for molding that learning experience. A child can not just do as you say because they are developing their skills to reason and make decisions.
Children are little sponges absorbing the behavior of those adults around them. They are watching you for direction to be able to navigate the world. You are the first road map to surviving their day-to-day living. Be very careful with how and what behavior to which you respond. We all learn very quickly to produce the behavior that will garner the most effective response.
President Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama are wonderful examples of living to set examples of fairness and having integrity. The constant negative attack on them has not reduced them to responding in kind. They make me proud by not letting the behavior of others dictate theirs. Our President and First Lady know that our children are watching them.
5 Ways to Set Good Behavioral Examples for Your Children
- Speak to your children from a place of love and respect at all times even when they’ve made mistakes.
- Speak to other people with respect and kindness especially in front of your children.
- Share your time and a lot of yourself daily with your children.
- When your children behave in a way that upsets you, never make the behavior a noun that describes or identifies the child. The behavior is a verb and your child is not the behavior.
- Show support to your children in their trials and celebrations.
Marcia J. Williams, MSW has over 30 years of experience in child welfare and development. She is a retired Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services.