Do as I say, or do as I do?
Parents have always tried to pass on their knowledge and experiences to their children. Parents want to teach their children everything they know in the hopes that their children will have a happier, more successful and better life than they did. As such, parents try to make sure they share all of their wisdom with their children. Parents tell their children about their successes, so that children know what to emulate. Parents also share their struggles and failures so that their children know what to avoid. Parents hope to pass on the best of themselves to their children. Unfortunately, many parents end up passing on more than they expected or wanted. Parents hope that they will manage to keep from teaching their children bad habits. Parents do not want to inadvertently give their children the same insecurities or problems that they suffer from themselves. Sometimes, parents succeed in giving their children only the best of their personalities and experiences. More often, however, parents give their children mostly good things, but end up sharing a bad habit or two as well. Here are six bad habits you are unknowingly passing on to your kids.
When you are late to pick up your child from school do you claim it was because you lost track of time or because you were trapped behind a slow driver? When your child’s teacher talks to you about your child being disruptive in class, do you ask your child why they are acting out or do you claim the teacher or other children simply do not understand your son or daughter? When you are passed over for a promotion, do you admit it was because you were doing the bare minimum at work or do you claim it was because your coworkers undermined you or your boss disliked you? Are the things that happen in your life the result of your actions or do you claim that you are a helpless victim of circumstances? If you act like the latter, you risk your children developing a victimhood mentality. When that happens, they will forever be looking for an “oppressor” or an enemy to hold responsible for their own failings. This will prevent your child from examining their own choices honestly, taking responsibility for their actions and learning from their mistakes. Instead, they will be trapped in the mentality of a helpless victim forever even when they are far from helpless.
Most parents want their children to grow up to be able to manage their money wisely. Frankly, most people want to be able to be financially responsible. Wanting to be something, however, does not automatically make you that thing. Many people want to be superstar sports players or famous actors. That does not mean everyone who wants it will put in the time, energy and effort to become those things. The same is true with financial responsibility. Your child will not become a good money manager simply because you want them to become that. They will, however, pick up on any financially irresponsible habits that you display. If you make it a habit to go out and spend too much money or regard a credit limit as free money, do not be surprised when your child begins to display those same habits. If you are irresponsible, they will assume that it is just fine to spend money they do not have. After all, mommy or daddy did it and everything turned out just fine for them.
One of the most common complaints about children and teens today is that they are considered to be disrespectful. Many children remain well behaved, but there is some truth to the idea that youths are often disrespectful toward others including their own parents. That disrespect, however, does not simply appear out of the ether. If your children are disrespectful, you likely taught them to be so however inadvertently. If you continue scrolling through your phone when someone is talking to you, do not be surprised if your children refuse to put down their phones when you are talking to them. You showed them it was acceptable behavior through your own actions. Similarly, if you regularly badmouth your boss, talk back to police or otherwise rage against authority, do not be surprised when your children get in trouble for mouthing off to their teachers or start giving you attitude. After all, you taught them those habits.
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Children look to their parents to learn what are acceptable responses to different situations. When parents are usually calm and collected, children are less likely to form a habit of lashing out in anger or frustration. When parents go flying off the deep end at the drop of a hat, however, children are far more likely to internalize the idea that shouting or cursing is the proper response to everything from a fender bender to an unexpectedly canceled appointment. If you tend to raise your voice often, do not be surprised when your children decide that the proper reaction to a sibling taking their favorite toy or eating the last of their favorite sugary cereal is to start shouting at their unfortunate sibling. If you kick the car when it has troubles, you are teaching your child that violence is an acceptable response to inconveniences. If you swear a blue streak when things do not go your way, you are teaching your child that cursing is reasonable. Your child’s behavior will reflect your own, so be sure you are modeling what you want them to practice themselves.
The Thought Police
If you have read George Orwell’s masterpiece, “1984,” then you are familiar with the concept of the thought police. While such an institution does not technically exist in today’s world, you might well be teaching your child to act like a thought policeman if you are intolerant of other’s opinions. Most people today do their very best to avoid having children learn any sort of race or sex based prejudice. Parents who catch their children insisting that their sister is dumb simply because she is a girl are usually swift to correct that misassumption. That does not stop parents, however, from passing along an intolerance for diversity of thought. In fact, many parents would not think of themselves as being intolerant in any way, shape or form. If they cannot stand to talk about issues with someone from the other side of the debate, however, they are actually likely quite intolerant of differing opinions. This understanding that someone who thinks differently than you do is somehow lesser is often passed along in moments when a parent does not even realize the child is listening. If you complain that Christians are homophobic, Republicans are bigots, Democrats are morons, Muslims are terrorists or any other sort of cruel generalization, you are teaching your child that someone who believes different things about God or about how their country should be run is evil and somehow lesser. This is disastrous for civil discourse in later life. Your child will not be surrounded forever by people who think just like them. If you complain, mock, rant about or even wish harm on those who disagree with your position, you teach your child to act like the thought police. Only one way of thinking is acceptable. Everything else is somehow evil.
Whether you realize it or not, your child is always watching you. They learn both what you try to teach them, and what you would rather they avoid for the rest of their lives. If your bad habits are always on display, your children are going to develop those same habits. If you want your children to be the best they can be, you need to be better than you have ever been yourself. For your children to grow up without terrible habits, you need to break those habits yourself before you end up passing them on to your children. No one with sense ever expected parenting to be easy, but encouraging you to break bad habits is just one of the many ways it can leave you a better person than you ever imagined you could be.
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