How do you rate yourself as a parent? My personal rating fluctuates, depending upon the day, hour, or even minute. Admonishing my own anger or impatience can sometimes be balanced by an impulsive hug from my kid, or an email from a teacher mentioning how respectful he is at school.
Wait a minute, I taught him that, right? Then, distracted by my awesome parental influence, I inevitably do something such as trip over the viola the naughty boy left lying in the middle of the living room floor and cuss.
His dad taught him that, right?
We all wonder periodically (or at least we should) whether we really are a good role model for our children. Parenting can be awesome, but parenting can also (to quote the Grinch) “stink, stank, stunk.”
It’s hard to parent. Period. When they reach their teens we can feel like we’ve lost them to their friends, computer games, and/or unhinging hormones. During those trying times, pull out photos or tapes from their toddler years and remember this: their gummy grins, hugs, and love for you are still in there. Somewhere. Sometimes waaaaay back in there.
Role-modeling is constant. Challenges abound and our kids watch us parent them with their own brand of radar. They view how we handle our lives, jobs, insecurities, victories, and health, and it is then tightly vaulted in their ever-growing brains for future use.
Do you cut people off in traffic, yet offer up a specific hand digit when others do the same to you? Do you dutifully monitor your teenager’s online presence, yet drift off into unseemly web areas yourself?
Most parents don’t behave like they tell their teenagers to behave. Not every single second, anyway. It’s not easy to always do the right thing, and it’s important to remember that our children have the I can annoy/hurt/embarrass you more than anyone gene.
It’s like a Stephen King thriller. They’re watching us. Even from outside the bathroom door. We’re human, meaning we’re complex and terrific at telling ourselves we’re spectacular role models one minute while being horrific role models the next.
Truth is we are likely somewhere in between.
Do you listen to your children when they talk, even when they claim they have nothing to say? Many times that’s when they need your attention the most. Do you show real interest in their lives? Their friends? Their day at school?
Do your children respect you? Do you nip it in the bud if they don’t? The knee-jerk reaction is to yell and disrespect them right back. It’s also the reaction that will keep the disrespect-fest going.
If you are a continual complainer, your children will soak that trait up. Does your child witness you experience difficult issues with grace and resolve? Or do they watch you melt with despair and hopelessness about your future as you fetch yourself another glass of wine?
Good parents mess up. The key is to recognize it, admit it, work to change that particular behavior, and push forward. Children learn how to believe in themselves by your belief in them and yourself.
Do you laugh together? Daily? Teaching them to laugh at the small blips in their life by laughing at your own, not only helps diffuse negative feelings but is also charming to society at large.
Are you really a good role model?
It doesn’t hurt to ask yourself that frequently to remind yourself how vital your actions and reactions become when seen through your child’s eyes.
About The Author
In addition to being a mom to two boys between the ages of ten to twenty, Karen Laven is a comic, former newspaper feature writer, freelance writer and author of multiple books (including Cincinnati Ghosts and Quit Bugging Me — a Middle-grade adventure novel and winner of Young Voices Foundation Book of the Month). She currently contributes to BornHip.com, a parenting resource for new parents. You can view her latest post here.