What Type of Role Model Are You?

by Samantha on February 25, 2014

parent smoking in car with kids

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

A wise saying and one that’s more true than many of the adages that we’ve heard over the years.

The phrase is one that indicates what most of us already know: that what we do and how we behave is often mimicked and replicated by our kids. A scary thought, really.

We’re role models for our kids.

They’re watching our every move. This reality is something that many of us parents try to forget or ignore, especially when we want to do something that we know is not setting the best example for our children.

How many times have we poured ourselves that extra cocktail, told a boldface lie or reached for that cigarette in spite of ourselves? Sure - things would be perfectly fine in all of these scenarios had our kids not been watching and taking mental notes of what we were doing.

“Daddy smokes so it must be okay.”

“Mommy drinks a lot so it can’t be a problem.”

“Mommy and Daddy lie all the time so it can’t be that bad.”

It’s a bitter pill to swallow (figuratively speaking, of course) when we realize that we are indeed role models for our children. Those days of doing whatever we wanted to do with no repercussions have passed and we’re now in the position of being one that is looked to with wide-eyed wonderment…and disdain, depending on what we’re doing.

When our kids are young, they observe, accept and sometimes replicate what they’ve seen their parents do. As they get older, the mental imagery of what they have watched and experienced over the years has solidified, providing the foundation for the decisions that they will make in their critical teenage years. How many times have we heard the story of kids who started smoking because it was “the norm” at home and that their dad lit up first thing in the morning and after every meal? What number of boldface liars, scammers and generally unscrupulous people grew up with parents who underscored the importance of integrity, of telling the truth and of general ethics. Not many, I gather.

The point here is that our actions speak louder than our words, and that our values - the way we live our lives and the lessons that we teach our children - are imprinted on our kids, forming the basis of the types of people that they’ll become in adulthood. A scary proposition but one that is very real. Ask any flustered parent who’s had to scramble for an explanation for their teen who’s been caught smoking, drinking, or worse. “But Mom! YOU smoke [drink/take drugs or whatever other vice that they've been caught doing].” No explanation is ever sufficient in these circumstances.

Of course we could always fall back on another vintage parenting philosophy: “Do as I say, not as I do,” though it’s fairly hard to defend to growing kids who start to understand the troublesome nature of hypocrisy. No, as unnerving as it may be, we are the ones who need to be setting the examples for our kids. A sobering thought but one that can’t be ignored. So take a deep breath, butt out, tell the truth and realize that parenting is no doubt the toughest job you’ll ever have.

What do you think? Do you feel that you’re a good role model for your kids? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

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