Robert has a drinking problem to help him deal with stress. Sue is having an affair. Ken is addicted to porn. Becky has a body image and eating disorder. She’s addicted to her scale. Neil believed lying was in his DNA. Tyler is angry… he’s been fired from coaching his son’s soccer. Kelly has anxiety which can lead to panic attacks. So does her mom, and now her 11 year old daughter is seeing a counselor for anxiety.
What do these clients all have in common? They didn’t believe their children… some who are now “adult…” knew these secrets. Roberts 17-year-old son got a DUI this year. Sue’s nine-year-old daughter found out about her mom’s affair by seeing her text. She didn’t tell anyone for 3 months. Ken’s son has been watching porn since 11. Becky’s daughter hates her body, constantly comparing it to her peers and pictures on social media. It is a struggle to get Becky’s daughter to eat. Tyler’s son (10) and daughter (6) are yellers… his son was recently kicked off his soccer team because of “attitude” issues. Modeling—teaching by example—affects behavior far more than telling your children what to do.
"Anger, anxiety, sadness, happiness, disappointment, despair, joy, fear — all the emotions we display in front of our children are the emotions they learn to exhibit themselves."
Our children are always watching what we do, listening to what we say and how we say it. Their minds are like sponges, and they begin to soak it in at a very early age. Their brains compute and it stays in their “hard drive…” taking it into adulthood. Be aware of what you’re modeling… your children are watching and listening. Sometimes, parents unintentionally and unknowingly become unhealthy role models for their children.
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see
Children may not obey
But children will listen
Children will look to you
For which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say
"Listen to me"
Children will listen
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen
Careful what you say, children will listen
Careful you do it too, children will see and learn
-from Into the Woods
Parenting is not an easy task. We all try our best to be good parents. Think for a moment about the all the time, energy, and money we put into our children. We send them to the best schools, help them with homework, involve them in sports, dance, theater, etc. We plan special birthday parties, make their favorite desserts, pay extra money for the brand-name clothing they like, buy them the newest video game or latest cell phone model, and save for their college education.
Those things are all fine, but make no mistake about it, the most important things you can do for your children has nothing to do with those “things.” The most important thing is to be present and teach them about love, honesty, self-worth, kindness, forgiveness, respect, responsibility, compassion, integrity, strong work ethic, self-control, gratitude, patience and humility. We must teach these to our children by modeling them. Your children may close their ears to your advice but they will open their eyes to your example.
Whatever you want your children to achieve in their life, you first must achieve yourself. If you struggle with these in your life, it’s probably because your parents struggled too. So break the cycle. Don’t believe what Neil did, that lying was in his DNA because his great-grandfather, grandfather, dad, and uncle all lied and cheated. When I asked Neil if that’s the legacy he wanted to leave for his two sons, Neil said, “absolutely not!” It’s not easy being that “transition person,” but it’s possible. And Neil finally came to realize it was a matter of choice and not DNA. It was freeing for him because he no longer felt trapped by his belief.
"You can use most any measure
When you’re speaking of “Success.”
You can measure it in a fancy home,
Expensive car or dress.
But…the measure of your REAL success
Is the one you cannot spend.
It’s the way your kids describe YOU
When they’re speaking to a friend!"