Your Children Are Watching
In chapter 1 of my new book, Start with the Heart, I list 18 statements that describe beliefs and actions that must be in place to “secure children’s hearts and increase your influence so you’ll be able to motivate them to be responsible, brave, compassionate, and so much more.” (page 20-21)
One of these statements is “Be who you want your children to be and teach them who you want them to be. Much is caught and taught. Want them to be successful.” (page 21)
Does just teaching work? Children and teens tell me that hypocrisy doesn’t work. Being taught something by parents (or grandparents or teachers) who don’t value the same behavior for themselves can cause the instruction to fall on deaf ears. Or, if children absorb some of the instruction, they may get frustrated and angry when they see adults not following the same expectations for themselves. Role modeling is also necessary.
Also, the lack of role modeling makes it harder for children to successfully follow through on instruction even if they want to. Learning new skills isn’t always easy. Changing character is even harder so without examples of new, right qualities lived out before them, it’s likely that children will fall back into old patterns. Then, if they’re “yelled at” they’ll get even more discouraged.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include these thoughts – Teaching works. Telling and yelling don’t. I believe a reason so many parents think they can rely on kids catching the right attitudes and actions is that their teaching hasn’t worked. But, in reality, they didn’t teach. They didn’t explain, provide details, explain sequence, compare and contrast, define things in detail, reteach as necessary, and more. They simply told kids what to do and expected compliance. As I often say, character will be harder to learn than the 1,2,3’s and the A,B,C’s, but we drill and skill those. We must do the same with character.
Does just “catching it” work? Some children can learn a lot from just living with positive examples. If the motivational structure is healthy and they respect their parents (or grandparents or teachers), they’ll want to be like them. But, what if they don’t respect the adults? And, it’s common that parents aren’t consistent. If children see patience and impatience, other-centeredness and self-centeredness, and open and judgmental behavior, which will they model?
In addition, children will eventually be with their parents less and less. Less role modeling from them will make it harder for children. Also, children are influenced by many others. Peers are significant and so are their social media connections. What if children catch more from others than you would like?
Teaching and role modeling are best.
Yes, teaching and role modeling are best. Consistency between our words and our lives encourages children to believe us and to take risks to change and improve behaviors. Consistency builds security. This is partly because teaching (truly teaching) and role modeling make it more likely that children will be successful. Success, too, builds security. It’s a win-win.
On page 33, I declare: “Transformation happens as character is caught and taught.”
Do you want your children to be able to permanently change their character in the right direction? This requires a change in their heart. They’ll need a heart for you and God. Heart changes happen when we prioritize our relationships. This means we must prioritize both the teaching of truths and the living out of those truths. Both strengthen relationships. Absolutely!
What do you think? What’s important here? What will you do with the ideas you just read?