How many times have you seen one of your own “less than favorable” behaviors exhibited by one or more of your kids? It could be something as small as using poor table manners or as significant as lashing out in anger when things don’t go their way. Either way, it is vital for you to understand that children learn how to react from the people in their environment. They mimic the behaviors of their role models. Simply stated, kids emulate adults behaviors until they become anchored and become their own.
That brings us to Parenting Secret #4 to Empower Kids: Set the Example. If you are reading this, then you obviously want your kids to be empowered and successful. If you want your kids to be more empowered, YOU need to be more empowered. Set the example! If you want your kids to act in a moral or acceptable way, you have to take the lead. If you don’t want your kids to steal, then you shouldn’t. If you don’t want them to smoke, then you can’t smoke. If you want them to be drug free, you must be as well. You have set the example.
A key to remember when dealing with children is that things are very cut and dried with them – especially with younger kids. Something either “is” or it “is not.” Like many behaviors, justification is something they learn from adults as they get older. Let me share a story with you that I witnessed first hand. A man was with his young son in the local bakery. As part of their trip to the bakery, dad was incorporating math into journey. He asked his son how much a particular item cost. Then he asked how much three of those would cost… and so on. On this day, it was very busy at the bakery. When their number was called, the dad and son placed their order and paid in cash. When the girl behind the counter gave him his change, she mistakenly gave him $10 too much. The son noticed and started to say something. The father made a motion to the boy by putting his hand up with one finger extended – the international signal for “hold on a minute.” He took his change, put it in his pocket, and walked toward the door. The boy had a look of confusion on his face. I assume his dad had told him that it is not acceptable to steal – to take something that doesn’t rightfully belong to you. Yet, that’s what the boy just witnessed. What did this boy just learn? Has something like this ever happened to you?
Most people (and therefore kids) are visual learners. Watching you is how they learn what is acceptable in society and what is not. This is why in certain places around the country one set of behaviors might be normal, but in other areas, those same behaviors are completely unacceptable. Kids learn that by watching what goes on around them. They learn that by watching adults in their environment. What we’re doing with this book, by setting the example, is teaching our kids that they can become their own role models. They’ll begin setting the example for kids younger than them. They might even begin to get adults on board by making their behaviors visible.
There is an old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” While this may seem harsh to some of you reading this, what I am about to say may be the most important thing in this article. If you don’t lead by example, your words to your child are EMPTY. They hear you say one thing and see you doing another. While they may be too young to have a vocabulary word for it, kids recognize the hypocrisy. Everyone, regardless of age, wants to know that they can trust the people who are closest to them. If a person’s words and actions are incongruent, a shadow of doubt is placed in the mind of the recipient. Can I really trust what this person says? Do you want your kids thinking this about you? And, as they get older, they will find someone (or a group of people like a gang) whose actions and words are congruent with each other – either positive or negative. Wouldn’t you rather be the trusted source for your kids?
Mark Papadas is a nationally recognized children’s empowerment expert and author of the highly acclaimed book “10 Secrets to Empower Kids and Awaken the Child in You” as well as President of The I AM 4 Kids Foundation – a recognized 501c3 charity committed to providing its personal empowering programs to public schools across the U.S. at NO COST to the SCHOOLS.
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