My dad used to always say, “Do as I say, not as I do”. Did you ever hear that growing up? Did you ever feel the slimy weight of hypocrisy in those words? My dad was a smoker and an alcoholic, a womanizer and he had trouble keeping a job. As much as I loved my dad, it’s no wonder I lost respect for him at a young age, especially when he told me not to smoke or drink.
It seems my dad never got the memo that having children is like installing a permanent mirror in your life. Kids often reflect everything you do, regardless of what you tell them, and that’s because principles are usually caught more often than they are taught. Kids do what their parents do more than what their parents say, which is one reason things like alcoholism is passed from generation to generation.
This became evident in my life when I had my own children, and I started to see my habits play out before my eyes in their lives. I learned quickly that my bad habits and choices were becoming their bad habits and choices, and the weight of the burden of parenting humbled me to the point of change.
I realized that I spent too much time in the digital world. I could often be found sitting on the couch watching TV, playing on my computer or on my phone, and I noticed a trend. Every time my kids wanted to do something, it was related to the digital world, and hit my wife and I: if we wanted our kids to go outside and play, or color, or read books, we had to model these things for them, or they probably weren’t going to happen.
Most recently, my wife and I realized this principle at work in another key area in life as well. We began taking notice of the fact that every time our kids wanted something to eat, all they wanted was junk food. They always asked to go to McDonalds or Taco Bell, or to go get pizza for dinner, and they only wanted sugar-filled snacks.
As you can imagine, this set off alarms that not only were we making these types of foods available to our kids, but we were eating these foods as well. We saw food as a reward, and so we offered food-related rewards to our kids. Every time they did something well, we went to get frozen yogurt or some other “treat”, being sure to enjoy some ourselves.
When we made the choice to start eating healthy food and not treating food like a reward, we noticed a fascinating phenomenon: our kids stopped asking for junk food. Many times I’ve heard my 5-year-old daughter ask for peppers or carrots for a snack, and my wife told me that she recently asked for a salad for her afternoon snack. At the dinner table, she asked if she could have more asparagus. MORE ASPARAGUS! We told her she could have more asparagus after she finished her fish (talapia, no less), which she did without complaining or arguing. What 5-year-old does that?!
The truth is, whether it is your finances, your eating habits, your love for missions or your passion for technology, you are setting an example for your children and cementing habits for how they will live their lives by the choices you make and the actions you take.
Furthermore, if you notice your kids doing something you know is not good for them, the answer just might be found by taking a look in the mirror, for that’s what kids are, and that’s where most of life’s answers are usually found.