We’ve all heard the expression, “Do as I say, and not as I do.” It means to follow the rules, follow what someone says, but don’t follow their actions. It means the person using the phrase is telling you to do something, but they, themselves, refuse to do it. Unfortunately, too many people are living by these words, but when it comes to parenting, this phrase can make or break the relationship we have with our kids.
We want our kids to be better than we are, to strive for more, and live a life of success, but when we follow this adage, we are forgetting what it means to be human. Kids, by nature, soak up their surroundings and internalize them. What they see is literally what they do because that’s exactly how humans learn, especially in their formative years. This means, as adults, it’s time to call our integrity into question, especially if we are doing the same for our kids. It’s time to ask ourselves if we are being the best role model possible, and if not, what can we do to get there?
How the ‘Do as I Say’ Method Backfires
There are two things that happen when we don’t act as role models, and they work together. First, whether we want to believe it or not, our children start picking up our behaviors because they live with us and see us every day. From day one, everything we do and say becomes an internalized narrative. Think about how kids learn to eat their food, speak, and play. We are the gatekeepers of knowledge, modeling all behaviors. But when kids grow older, the stakes grow larger.
For example, if you tell your kids not to get in a car with someone who’s been drinking, and you have a beer or two at dinner then drive your family home, you’re teaching your child it’s okay. If that doesn’t resonate, think about how you speak to your friends and even how you speak to your kids about others. If you are constantly name-calling, blaming, or refusing to take ownership of your behaviors, then how do you expect your kids to know any differently? You set the bar for kindness, compassion, and ownership because they have no other outlet to learn in the first 5-6 years of their lives. And the older they get, the more aware they become to who you are and what you are saying.
The next piece stems from respect. As parents, if we are constantly asking things of our kids, and we are doing the opposite, then we are providing mixed messages. Therefore, it’s easy for them to lose respect. You might say, “They are my child; they should respect me.” While that may be true if you’d tell your child to watch out for a specific behavior, yet you are exhibiting said behavior, your child is caught in a place where they aren’t sure what to think. And the more we act in ways we deem wrong, the more our child is going to pick up on it and see us in that light. For example, say you tell your child lying is wrong, but they watch you lie to your boss or your spouse. They may be young and naïve, but they can surely spot a liar. Now, since you’ve done it, they may feel it’s okay to lie occasionally, too.
This all boils down to integrity. Integrity means doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. If we aren’t doing the right thing when they are watching, they have no way to make the best decisions for themselves when we aren’t around.
How Can We Teach Our Kids to Have Integrity?
The easiest way to teach good behaviors is to lead by example. No one is asking you to be perfect, but the more we can model compassionate and morally sound behavior, the more likely our kids will pick up on those traits and behaviors, as well.
Think about it this way. Have you ever had a boss you simply didn’t respect? Think about the worst boss you’ve ever had and analyze those behaviors. Maybe they had an attitude, they didn’t follow through with their objectives, or simply did nothing to contribute. What did you gain from that environment? How did you feel when they didn’t follow through or simply did nothing in their position? Now, think about your kids. In a lot of ways, you are their boss for the first 18 years of their lives. You organize, you provide structure, and you give them the tools to succeed. How would they rate you as a boss? Are you following through? We can’t expect kids to follow a meaningless command and retain their respect. We wouldn’t want our kids to do the same with others in their lives, so it’s time to step up and be the leader we all need.
Leading by example can be hard when it comes to addiction. If you or a young adult you know is struggling with addiction, professional help is always a great option. The Bougainvilla House offers adolescent behavioral health programs for individuals and families. Call us today to see how we can help 954-764-7337, or use our convenient Contact form.