“Nothing is so contagious as example;
and we never do any great good or evil
which does not produce its like.”
Francois de la Rochefoucauld
By Wendy Anne Clark
I teach my writing students that it’s not enough to simply “tell” your readers something; you must also “show” them. You must demonstrate—through examples, details, and illustrations–what it is that you want your readers to know and understand.
It is not so different with our children. As parents, yes, we need to teach them the things we want them to know, but a large part of that teaching involves showing or demonstrating for them what we want them to learn, and most of that “showing” happens when we, as parents, live out what we teach.
Do I want my children to be kind? Then I must both talk about what kindness is and show them what kindness is by being kind—to them, to their friends, to our neighbors, to strangers in the grocery store.
Do I want my children to be honest? Then besides teaching them about what honesty is, my children must see honesty demonstrated in me.
Do I want my children to make people and relationships a priority in their lives? Then I need to talk about what that means, point out the choices they face, and live out what it is that I am teaching them.
We are always teaching our children—whether or not we ever stop to think about what it is that they are learning from us.
We may be teaching them how to lie to get out of something they don’t want to do. We may be teaching them how to avoid taking responsibility for their own mistakes and failings. We may be teaching them to be self-centered and rude or to step over others to get their own way. Perhaps we are teaching them to put in a minimal amount of effort to any task that isn’t fun or exciting. Or maybe we are teaching them that promises and commitments don’t really matter all that much or that it doesn’t matter if our jokes hurt someone else as long as they are funny or that it’s okay to complain about things we don’t like or enjoy or about people who annoy us.
We can all benefit from taking an honest look at what it is that our lives demonstrate to our children because, no matter what we are telling them, our kids are taking that look at us, every day.
Am I . . .
a Hard worker?
And . . . ?
What am I teaching my kids by how I behave, speak . . . live?