Don’t be a hypocrite, Mama

Kids notice. They notice when you say something and do something else. They notice when you don’t apply standards fairly. And yes, they even notice when you expect something of them that you yourself don’t do. Here’s how to stop being a hypocrite and start practicing what you preach.

Ask yourself this (and be honest!) — do you really act the way you expect your kids to? Or do you expect them to behave in ways that you yourself don’t model? If the latter is true, it’s time to start modeling the behavior you want your kids to exhibit.

Yes, as they say, you should practice what you preach.

Why it matters

This is way more than a familiar saying. Practicing what you preach is an important part of imparting the right lessons onto your kids. “You see, a parent’s responsibility is to develop for their child a ‘family culture’ where the child can feel safe learning the values, ethics and morals their parents hold as a standard for the family identity, as well as their own personal identity. If a parent adopts the model of ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ they leave their child open to confusion,” says Dr. Phil Dembo, author of The Real Purpose of Parenting, The Book You Wish Your Parents Read.

Your kids will notice if your expectations don’t match your own behavior. “Parents are and always will be the primary role model for the standards that their child is expected to live by. If you, as a parent, practice it, you barely have to preach,” says Dembo.

Keep your credibility

What happens when you don’t practice what you preach? Well, your kids could lose their faith in you — and that’s something you definitely don’t want to happen. “Kids are impacted deeply by the hypocrisy they experience when their parent preaches one thing and does another. Kids are keenly aware of whether their parent is credible and whether they do what they say and say what they do,” says Dembo.

That loss of credibility can lead to kids losing trust in authority and themselves as well, says Dembo. “There is anger associated with such loss of trust and a diminishing of motivation to try to do their best. When you lose your role model, why bother trying,” says Dembo.

3 Steps to practicing what you preach

So, ready to make the changes so that your actions and expectations match up? That’s fantastic, Mama! “This can be a moment of learning and changing the dynamics, but a parent has to come clean, and change their model. Kids need to see that their parent is willing to raise the bar on their own standards and be consistent with what they do and what they say,” says Dembo.

Dr. Dembo suggests taking these three steps to modify your behavior and become a model of what you expect for your kids.

Be vulnerable

Start by admitting your shortcomings and sharing with your child how you plan to change them. “Own your old pattern and spell out for your child what you are going to work on and change,” says Dembo.

Be habitual

“If you have a standard that your child must keep his/her room clean and you have habitually thrown your clothing on your bedroom floor, set up a time every day when you, the parent, pick up your own room and put everything away. It sets the new standard,” says Dembo.

Formalize it

Write down your family standards, including items regarding self-respect, property respect and respect for others. Dembo says, “The [family] constitution is a productive way for each member to see what the culture stands for based on the values of the parents.”


Jen Hancock, a mom of one from Florida, says that her efforts to model the behavior she expects from her son have paid off. “I am a polite person who says please and thank you all the time. I never had to teach my son to be polite because he learned it from watching me.”

More on raising good kids

How to encourage good behavior
How to raise responsible kids
How to reward your kids