How Do Your Kids Act When You’re Not Around?


Don’t we all wish we could be a fly on the wall when our kids are in social situations with their peers? The way that our kids react when we’re not around is so important to their moral fiber. It’s also indicative of how we parent. If we tend to control our kids rather than guide them and let them learn, we are more likely to end up with kids who are outwardly obedient, yet inwardly defiant.

The Ezzos offer this as a warning flag in Parenting the Middle Years, the book that comes after Growing Kids God’s Way and On Becoming Childwise. (It’s directed toward parents of kids ages 8-12.) This is what they say about this warning flag:

“Warning flag one: your child does not follow the family standard outside of your presence (or the presence of others who know and represent your family values) …. When your middle years child becomes characterized by not caring who sees him or what he is doing, especially when he is around people who are familiar with your family’s values, then the child’s problem is one of shame — the lack of it,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 75.)

Essentially, our kids — no matter their age — should care what people think. If we know we have done our job in teaching them the way we think they should act, we can expect that they will carry this with them wherever they go. Some indiscretions will happen for sure. But on the whole, we should be able to expect that our kids behave appropriately.

So I suppose the question becomes, How do we find out how our kids act when we’re not around? Our friends can be very helpful in this endeavor. But more than that, listen intently when anyone comments on your child’s behavior. Ask questions. A mom from our homeschool co-op came up to me recently and told me how polite my kids are. Of course, I was appreciative of the comment. But I had to ask more. I wondered what the scenario was that helped her come to this conclusion. We are working on “thank you” at home as my kids seem to have forgotten the value of this phrase. But they almost always say “please” when asking for something, especially from a near-stranger. She also commented on how patient they were when or before they were asking for something.

You might also call upon other people in your child’s life: teacher, coach, scouts leader, etc. Ask them to tell you honestly how your child acts when you’re not around. Then ultimately, if you hear anything negative, you can make that priority number one in what you teach the child.


  1. I know what your saying. My problem is I always cared too much about what other people thought of me and this can sometimes be a bad thing. How do we get the balance that our children want to behave well but that they then don’t worry about what people think of them in a bad way (do know what I mean)?

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