Perhaps the most influential tool we have in our parenting kit is our own example. Our children take far more from how they see us living, than from any advice we give them. How we interact, approach tasks, and manage our emotions all provide ‘lessons’ for our children. They notice these things, whether we wish them or not, and build them into their own default settings.
Early on in this parenting gig we learn that our child is very much their own person.
Contrary to popular belief, we cannot actually control THEIR behaviour, but we absolutely can control our own.
In fact, we must if we want our parenting to be effective and enjoyable.
Our manners and values are caught, not taught.
We need to lead by example. If we hope to raise kind children, we must take every opportunity to show kindness.
Telling our children to be patient has little to no effect, but if patience is something we practice in our daily lives, they too will learn to wait gracefully in traffic, and supermarket queues.
If we enforce manners, there is no guarantee our child will say please and thank you in our absence. If, instead, we focus on our own politeness, our child is likely to also adopt this habit as part of their being.
Be alive and be authentic.
So much of our behaviour is absorbed by our children without any direct ‘teaching’, but we can also use stories and conversations to illustrate our human qualities. We can share a goal we're working hard on as an example of perseverance, or explain how we stood up for someone because fairness is one of our values.
Being real is at the heart of being a great model. Our children don’t just want the shining examples, or parents who pretend to be paragons of virtue.
We need to also model how we deal with our mistakes and shortfalls - the ‘person’ us matters to them as much as the ‘parent’ us.
How we get up after we stumble, or make amends after offending a friend provide them rich material for their own struggles.
"What we ARE teaches the child more than what we say, so we must BE what we want our children to become." - Joseph Chilton Pearce
If we practice the values, and model kindness, compassion and hope, and if we accept who we are, it will be more likely our children will love and accept who they are.