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Childwise Principle #8 is:
“To teach a virtue, one example (you) is better than a thousand lectures” (
On Becoming Childwise , page 92).
Parental example is vitally important in teaching our children. I have talked about it in these posts:
So if you have read this blog much or at least those posts, I know you have heard it from me before. Your child will not exhibit behavior that you yourself don’t exhibit (unless you have one of those amazing children who pretty much turn out great no matter what you do–they are out there).
Why is this? Not only the obvious of your child observes you to learn how to behave. Nor the equally as obvious that your child isn’t going to really want to do something you aren’t really willing or able to do yourself. Another big reason is that so many of the things we are trying to teach a child are abstract ideas.
How do you explain respect? How do you explain kindness? How do you explain charity? I mean, how do you explain those so an adult with a fully functioning vocabulary can understand–much less a young child who doesn’t fully understand a fair chunk of the words you say anyway?
These are abstract ideas. “To be learned, to be internalized, the abstract must be made concrete. Parents do this through practical, everyday examples” (page 92). As parents, we demonstrate what these things mean throughout the day. Our children not only mimic our actions, but they learn to assign meaning to the abstract things we have told them about–watching us is how they create a concrete idea from the abstract description we have given them.
Hopefully this idea of turning the abstract into concrete will help you to understand even more the reason your example is so important when it comes to teaching your children morals and virtues.