As parents we usually live somewhere in between oblivion and constant worry where our kids are concerned. The older they get, the more this tends to increase. I have five daughters and for the past 25 years there hasn’t been a day where I’m not concerned about their safety and wellbeing. It’s so easy for parents to beat themselves up or throw in the towel when their kid messes up or gets into trouble—whether it’s school problems, drugs, alcohol, or sex related. We wonder where we went wrong and how it could have been prevented. We ask ourselves if we truly did set a good example for our kids. If not, where could we have made changes and is it too late? The good news is, if your kids are still living at home it’s never too late to set a good example for them. Even if they don’t live at home, you can still set a good example!
It’s a natural fact of life that humans learn by example. We can lecture our kids day in and day out, but what they really remember is our actions. Do you tell them that smoking is bad yet they see you puffing away? Maybe you preach to them about the virtues of reading or studying yet you haven’t picked up a book in years and spend most of your time watching TV. Perhaps you demand respect, yet don’t offer much back in return—respect is earned! The old adage, “Practice what you preach” should be engraved upon the mind of every parent.
Spend time with them. It’s confusing as to whether you should opt for quality or quantity. Every parenting expert will have an equally strong yet totally opposite opinion. I say you need both! Of course we have jobs and errands and other responsibilities that fill up our day, but out of 24 hours you can surely take time out to reconnect with your children no matter how old they are.
Now that my kids are older, I asked them what they enjoyed most and remember best from when they were younger. Do you think it was the lavish gifts or Disneyland trips? No! They have fond memories of making snow ice cream, watching horror movies and making desserts, coloring together, having me read to them, and being there to listen when they needed to talk. Those seemingly small instances have helped to shape them into the family-oriented, loving young women they are today.
You don’t have to be perfect. Nobody’s perfect and trying to pretend you are will just result in frustration, lies, and a downright boring life! It’s okay if your kids see you as weak once in awhile, or even that you make mistakes. I’ve been known to sometimes lose my temper, say things I shouldn’t have, embarrass them, let out a few swear words, and have too many glasses of wine once in a great while. It’s okay to not be perfect, but you need to draw a line at what you feel is acceptable. If your child did what you did, would you be okay with it?
Get out of abusive or toxic relationships. If not, odds are your kids will end up in dysfunctional relationships too. Take a good look at the person and people you’ve chosen to spend your life with. Get rid of your baggage, work on yourself, and make changes! So many people are in terrible relationships, but stay “for the kids.” What are you teaching your kids? To sacrifice their happiness? To stay with someone you don’t love or who treats you bad simply because “it’s the thing to do”? I’m not saying you should bounce from one relationship to the next, but you should definitely show your kids that self-esteem, self-confidence, and a healthy relationship are paramount to being happy in their adult years.
Hug them often! No matter how old they get always express your love and affection. Kids need to feel the physical connection that mutely says we adore them down to their very soul and accept them no matter what. I’m sure to hug each of my kids before I leave, before I go to bed, and sneak some in at other times when I can. Yes, dads should hug their kids too! Affection is THE best way to set a good example for your kids.
Setting a good example for your kids isn’t difficult; it just takes patience, love, and attention. Live by the Golden Rule and your kids will too.