At the age of 8, like every little girl, I decided I was going to be the best mother ever. Besides the mother who never served vegetables or fish at dinner time, I would have no bedtime curfew and would be the compassionate and respectful mother who listened to her children’s voice (I think I actually used the words “nice” and “not mean”).
Reliving this memory some time ago, I began to consciously consider the different ways in which people parent, in order to reflect on the way I parent. I started by reading books, watching other people and thinking about how I was parented.
I am not going to surprise anyone here by saying there are so many aspects to parenting and so many more differences of opinion on the best way to parent, from ‘attached’ parenting to the ‘you must do exactly as I say’ parenting. However, one aspect that made so much sense, that resonated with me and gave me something tangible to work with, was the Parent Role Model.
It is well known and documented that children will adopt many of their parent’s values and types of behaviour, just as those parents have been influenced by their own parents. So it is logical to expect that one of the most effective ways to parent is to become conscious of your own behaviour.
Children mimic what they see. Mimicry is part of how children master certain skills. If your child sees you doing something or acting a certain way, they are bound to try to do the same. M Scott Peck uses the example: If a father beats up a mother regularly, what sense does it make to a boy when his mother beats him up because he beats up his sister? Does it make sense when he is told that he must learn to control his temper?
I don’t know about you but I certainly grew up with the concept that you must respect your elders, no matter what. A concept I still believe in, partly – all except for the ‘no matter what.’ I consider the ‘elder’ also needs to behave in a respectful way to others including the child, in order to gain the respect of others, including the child. If we do not behave in a courteous way to our children or each other, should we be surprised that once our children get a voice they throw back at us our own misgivings.
Without being conscious of our own behaviour, as parents much of the time our message becomes ‘do as I say, but not do as I do’ – so we are in fact telling a child that it is ok for adults/parents to behave in a certain way, just not for children to do so.
So how then are they supposed to act? Confused? I bet they are!
It seems to me that in general what we are really asking/expecting from our children, as parents/adults is to behave in a reasonable manner, in effect we are asking them to practice SELF DISCIPLINE.
Aha and so the penny drops, if we ourselves act with self-discipline, then we will create the best environment for our children to develop their own self-discipline.
So, the moral of the story is that if we want or dream of our children growing up to be great people with self discipline as well as respect, courage and determination then we must act with these attributes too. ..