The pressure to raise kids of solid character can often cause parents to overlook their own behavior. But, it’s pretty difficult to raise upstanding children without first paying attention to our own character.
As parents, we all want to raise kids of good character, but how exactly does that happen? The only way to ensure that your kids know what it means to have solid character is to make sure you are a living example.
Their little eyes are watching
On a day-to-day basis, kids are exposed to a number of personalities, conversations and belief systems. Between school, extracurricular activities and friends, their moral compass could be skewed every now and then. As parents, we can get them back on track or send them further off course depending on how we behave.
“The greatest influence on the behavior of our children is our own behavior as parents,” says Dr. John Duffy, clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens. “Our role modeling is a more powerful influence on our kids than many parents realize.”
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In tough times
During these difficult economic times, our true colors come to the surface. Under stress, especially financial stress, parents can let their guard down when it comes to modeling positive character traits. A little tweak in our perspective can turn challenges into teaching opportunities.
“For better or worse, these tough times provide an excellent opportunity for parents to role model high character,” says Dr. Duffy. “For example, many people are in need these days, so we can demonstrate acts of charity for our kids. We can do so through a financial donation, or by volunteering our time, or any act of kindness.”
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While our kids definitely learn from watching us, sometimes lessons can be made more memorable when we talk through our decisions with our children. If your kids are old enough to have a discussion with you, identify the everyday moments that require action and share your decision-making process. “We need to talk to our kids about making choices that are in accordance with our character and values,” says Dr. Duffy. “Explain why acting with character sometimes means choosing a tougher, but more rewarding, route.”
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Do as I do
Perhaps there was a time when the adage, “Do as I say, not as I do” applied to parenting. Even if this outdated saying brings back memories of your own childhood experience, it’s time to let it go… forever. After all, it doesn’t matter how many times you say it (or hear it), kids are simply programmed to follow your example.
“Do as I say, not as I do” are empty words between parent and child, says Dr. Duffy.
Think about the attributes you want your child to demonstrate, and then demonstrate them yourself. This could mean choosing family over a night out with friends or telling a cashier that you were undercharged for an item. Put in the effort to work on your own character and your child will be far more likely to mirror your actions.