“Do as I say, not as a do.” Do we really expect our kids to listen when we say that? The truth is, kids learn way more from their parents’ behavior and actions than they ever will from their words and instruction. As parents, we would be wise to remember this as we live out our lives and set a good example for our children. No, this doesn’t mean we will be perfect, but our example will have a profound impact on the kind of kids we raise – for good or for bad.
Of course, there are thousands of ways a parent can lead by example, but here are six of the most important ones we can’t afford to get wrong.
6 Ways Parents Need to Lead by Example:
1. Showing respect to the other parent.
We can’t ask our children to respect us as parents, if we are being disrespectful to our spouses – ignoring them, talking down to them, or being unkind in how we talk to them or about them. This even goes for divorced parents. As painful as it is, avoid talking negatively about your ex in front of your kids. Kid will mirror the respect that they see in their homes while they are growing up, and this could possibly carry on into their own relationships and marriages down the road.
2. The way we talk about ourselves.
Don’t think for a second that your child doesn’t hear you criticizing yourself while you look in the mirror. They will see and hear enough in the culture at large and from their peers about what they should look like, what they should wear, or how much they should weigh, but a parent’s voice carries the most weight. Choose to be comfortable in your own skin, or at least choose not to voice your criticism where your child can hear it.
3. Giving kids our full attention.
We live in distracting, fast-paced world, but our kids need us to stop and look them in the eye and listen. They have big thoughts, feelings, and dreams, and they’re dying to express them to us. Choose to give them the gift of your time and attention. Your listening will make them feel loved and valued more than you might ever know.
4. Purposefully limiting our screen time.
This goes hand in hand with giving them our attention, but it goes beyond that. When parents purposefully limit their own screen time, it forces them to live in the moment with their kids – to play with them, talk to them, and truly do life with them.
5. Loving and caring for others.
As parents we tell our kids again and again that life “isn’t all about you,” but then sometimes we act like life is all about us. We have to learn to love our friends and family well. This can look as simple as making dinner for someone in need or volunteering in a soup kitchen. It’s not enough to just tell our kids not to be selfish. We have to show them how to do that and let them learn alongside us.
6. Responding well to criticism, failure, and conflict.
Who you really are will be evident when you face criticism, failure, and conflict, and your child will be watching to see how you react. We tell our kids to persevere, to not worry about what others think, but this will fall on deaf ears if we chase after other’s approval, run away from conflict, or let failure define us. This doesn’t mean you can’t let your child see you struggle. Let them see you fall on your face, and let them see you get back up again.
When your child is grown, he won’t remember much of what you said, but he will remember how you lived.