You know that quote that travels around the internet that says something like “actions speak louder than words”? Yeah, that thought terrifies me. As a teacher, I saw first hand how much kids pick up on what adults are doing, as they mimic nearly every part of their teachers-for better or worse. The students paid far more attention to what we did rather than what we said.
As a parent, I try so hard to do what I can to shape responsible, compassionate, confident people. But I worry all the time that I’m passing on things to my kids I don’t even know I am because some of my actions are so ingrained or rote it is not even conscious modeling. I am not always responsible or compassionate and certainly not confident and I am afraid it is those moments where I fail at each that my kids will imprint on their brains, rather than all the times I may tell them otherwise.
Lately, I am in that sweet spot with our kids where they are old enough to understand lectures and still young enough to listen. Now is when I find myself talking a lot. We have conversations about things that I would have never guessed would come up this early. But, I figure as long as they’re still young enough to believe I know what I am talking about, I will answer any question that comes my way with as much honesty as seems appropriate for their personality.
But I can’t stop there. I have to watch what I do, because, you know that whole loud action thing. If I talk about drinking and driving, I dare not have one drop in their presence and get behind a wheel of a car. If I tell my girl she’s beautiful just the way she is and strong and healthy is important, not thin, I better watch my mouth about my own fat thighs. If I preach kindness and forgiveness and compassion, I better be ready to act kind and compassionate and to forgive.
Being a parent is hard and while none of us is perfect, I just might need to try a little harder if I want my kids to really hear what is right.
This post was inspired by The Dinner by Herman Koch. Two brothers and their wives sit down for a tension filled dinner to discuss a tragedy that can change both families’ lives forever. Join From Left to Write on October 29 as we discuss The Dinner. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.