Leading by example is the best way to teach your kids
"Do as I say, not as I do.” The age-old commandment that parents swear by. If you haven’t said it, maybe you’ve thought it? Or maybe, without realising it, it’s been the message you’ve been sending your child all along. Now come a little closer, let me tell you a secret so many parents don’t know: it doesn’t work.
Even though I tell my 3-year-old daughter to count to five and take deep breaths when she wants to throw her stuffed fox against a wall when it doesn’t want to sit up by itself, when a new app simply refuses to download onto my phone, I seem to forget any number after one, and send my phone flying to the nearest couch. Even though I know my phone is safe, my daughter only sees me throwing something as a reaction to my frustration. Which memory will her mind pull up first to help her decide what to do when she gets frustrated, me talking to her while her thoughts are clouded with emotions or the image of me doing exactly what she wants to do? Yep, the poor fox is going to get it…again.
While your child may be running around now, having outgrown the toddler years where they copied everything you do – from putting on body lotion (and being convinced the couches and floors need moisturising as well) to learning your “French” in traffic (I bet you regretted some of your more creative phrases real quick) – the truth is, we never stop copying others’ actions.
At times our copy-cat behaviour is intentional, like watching a FoodTube video to get a recipe just right or following a picture diagram to remember how to fold a school tie, but other times we do it without meaning to. Have you ever yawned when you saw someone else yawn? Have you ever felt like crossing your arms just after the person next to you did it? Copying behaviour is part of human psychology. There’s no doubt that you will be your child’s “how-to” video – when they try to remember how to tie their shoes, for instance – but they may copy your behaviour as involuntarily as a yawn at other times. It is because of this unintentional copying that parents always need to be on their best behaviour…or at least try to. No one’s perfect.
While you might pick up on the simple things, like throwing a stuffed toy, you might not notice how their emotional responses begin to mirror yours as well. As they grow up, their identity and social skills may rely more on your example than you would like. That’s not a light load to have on your shoulders, but it’s part of being a parent. To help your child grow up to be a person who can deal with their emotions in a positive manner, you must start dealing with your own emotions in a positive manner.
Most importantly, be there for them – hold their hand when they ask for help, hold out your hand when they tried and failed, and watch as they soar when they can finally let go. Just keep on showing them how it should be done. Let them do as you do.
“Do as I say, not as I do.” The age-old commandment that parents swear by. If you haven’t said it, maybe you’ve thought it? Or maybe, without realising it, it’s been the message you’ve been sending your child all along. Now come a little closer, let me tell you a secret so many parents don’t know: it doesn’t work.