Do as I say, not as I do!
How many times have you heard that? Maybe your parents said it. Maybe your teachers said it. Maybe your pastors, doctors, or role models said it. Was that ever an effective method to keep you from making bad choices?
Here's another question: How many times have you said that to your children?
I think by the time we are adults, we consciously realize that actions speak louder that words. We may hear a verbal message, but if the action contradicts the words, then the lasting impression is the one we saw, not the one we heard. If our family physician tells us to quit smoking, but wreaks of cigarette smoke, how seriously do we take the message? If our boss at work verbalizes empowerment and unity in the workplace, but does nothing to facilitate it, do we believe that she/he is willing to help us succeed in the company? If we claim to be loving and gentle spirited people, but yell, scream or flip the bird to someone who cuts us off on the freeway, what impression are we leaving?
I realized what I was modeling to my children one day while driving in the car. The person in front of my made a not-so-smart maneuver in their vehicle that could have caused a hazardous situation for us. My kids heard my gasp, and immediately, one of my girls exclaimed "Come on people!" the words I use when I am frustrated with another driver. (Boy, I'm glad I use those words and not some others!) She responded in that way because I respond in that way. Even though I try to teach them patience and kindness, she learned to react with frustration.
Now I know that is a small example of how my kids learn from my actions. They learn many of their own behaviors and actions from what they see me do. Through my actions, I teach them acceptable behavior, relationship skills, healthy living, study habits, basic living skills and even overall life attitude.
Now I could lecture them all day long on anyone of these things. But I guarantee, that if I am talking the talk and not walking the walk, my words will fall on deaf ears. If I speak of patience and kindness, then I need to act and react with mercy and grace. If I speak of the importance of education, then I need to make sure my kids see me learning. If I speak of the importance of healthy living, then I need to do my best to stay healthy in mind body and spirit. If I encourage them to spread their wings and fly, I need to stretch my own. If I'm not not living it, they are not listening to it.
So, I gladly accept my role model hat. I know that sometimes it will be sitting crooked or backwards on my head. It may even fall off from time to time. But if I do my best to keep it on and wear it proudly, my kids will ultimately learn the lessons I am trying to teach them.