If you want to raise your children to be good people, you need to demonstrate those qualities to your child.
Last week, we talked about the moral precept of teaching what is right, not just what is wrong. I talked about sharing examples with your children when correcting of family members on what is the right way. “When Mommy gets frustrated, does she hit you? No. We don’t hit when we are frustrated. Instead, we XYZ.”
You of course have to be consistent in your actions for your example to carry any weight.
“Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear your words.”
If you want your children to be moral, you need to be so yourself.
Teaching Kids to be Moral Starts With You Being Moral
I know, I say that a lot, right? I really believe it. “Effective parents know they cannot lead their child any further than they have gone themselves” (page 78).
Trying to train your child in a moral path that you have not yourself followed is about as effective as you trying to guide them down a raging river not knowing how to avoid the dangerous whirlpools and hidden boulders.
But it is more than just knowing where they are. Would you rather go down the river with a guide who as studied out the dangers and can point to them all on the map or the one who as studied all the dangers and has also practiced avoiding them in life?
I am not saying you need to have been perfect your entire life in order to teach your children to be morally virtuous. Not at all.
But if you are currently trying to teach your child to speak nicely to others, know that it is the right thing to do to speak nicely to others, and yet often speak in a condescending manner to people, your child is not likely to “do as you say and not as you do.”
When I was in college, some friends had a saying about finding a wife. “You gotta be what you wanna pull.” I think that is equally as true in raising children.
Except we have a serious advantage. I think our children are better than we are. They are more valiant at heart than we are. Sometimes children come out great despite their parents, but for the most part, you gotta be what you wanna pull. “…our children will live at the same moral standard we do, no matter what standard we describe with our lips” (page 79).
You might be surprised what little ways you break rules that you have in place for your children.
Do you help with a happy heart? Do you speak nicely of others at all times? Are you patient with your family members? Do you control your temper? Are you dependable in your responsibilities around the home? Do you assume the best from others?
Whenever you have a problem with your child, consider in what ways you and your spouse might be displaying this vice.
You are likely not doing it as exaggerated as your child is. When children mimic, they do it in such a magnified way they show us things we never knew we did.
For example, McKenna has this way she will pull her bottom lip when she is upset. I thought it was the oddest thing, then one day I noticed Brayden does the same thing–just a lot more minutely. I never noticed it with him, but did with her because of the way a child magnifies something she is mimicking.
So make sure you are exemplifying the qualities you want your children to exemplify.