Have you given thought to how you’d like your kids to behave, think, and believe? What qualities are important to you? Maybe you like a spotless house. Maybe you imagine your kids sitting around reading classic literature. Maybe you believe that they are piano prodigies. Whatever your ideals, do you make it a point to display these characteristics yourself?
I’ve been reading Charlotte Mason’s books lately. Charlotte Mason was an educator in the 1800s whose teachings have become a homeschooling philosophy. She teaches that children learn best from “living books” or stories that tell a tale about the subject. Dry textbooks written by many people are the antithesis to her beliefs.
One thing that Charlotte Mason emphasizes is that parents must display the characteristics they wish of their children. If we want our children to clean up their toys, we must clean up our own belongings. If we want them to read, we need to read. If we want them to play piano, we need to either play ourselves or be sure they have scheduled time to learn and practice.
The point is that we cannot expect these behaviors from our children if we don’t model them ourselves. This goes for everything from putting toys away to always telling the truth. The perfect Ezzo example is when someone calls the house and the parent doesn’t want to talk to that person, he or she will say, “Tell them I’m not home.” It’s a simple white lie, but it’s a lie nonetheless.
So many parents lose themselves in their children’s misbehaviors. They think that one more sticker chart or timeout method will be the cure-all to all of the child’s problems. There is no quick fix in parenting. I know a couple of parents who seem to really have their act together, and the characteristic I see most in them is that they run a tight ship. They have high expectations of their kids, yet the parents themselves are not hypocrites. The parents’ things are put away. Papers are filed. Books are stacked neatly on the shelf. Beds are made. An effort is made to educate themselves, and so on. It’s clear to me that these parents are able to run a tight ship because they live the ideals they expect from their children.
I remember when I first started this blog back in early 2009, I barely touched on discipline tactics. I even have a post called, “Where’s the Discipline?” If there’s one thing the Ezzos have taught me it’s that discipline doesn’t cure what ails us. There is a much larger foundation that must be laid before we can even think about disciplining our children. Once we set the stage for a harmonious household and model all of the behaviors we expect of our children, half the battle has been won.
I see this in my own children. If I’m messy, they’re messy. If I yell, they yell. They’re little mirrors or parrots, reflecting my behaviors right back at me. By the same token, if I work hard, they work hard. If I read, they read. If I have a clean house, they will keep their rooms clean. It’s so subconscious, but so powerful. We all adopt the behaviors and attitudes we see at home. We inherited a set of values from our parents, and in the same way, we are passing along values to our children, whether we choose to do so or not. So make it a point to live your best life and consciously model the behaviors and beliefs you wish to pass along to your children.