When kids are little, one
of the first rules many
parents teach them is
to play nicely. Unfortunately,
somewhere along the line as
we start to grow up, we tend to forget
that lesson ourselves.
Don’t believe me? Hop on the Internet
and read the comments section for
articles. It doesn’t matter what the subject—sports, entertainment, news, etc.
Or turn on any number of news programs.
Read letters in newspapers and
For that matter, stand on the sidelines
of your kids’ or grandkids’ sporting
or school events. Even our own
Church isn’t immune to the backbiting
and name-calling that seem to have
No, adults don’t always do such a
good job of practicing what they
preach. We gossip, laugh at jokes we
know are inappropriate and qualify
hurtful statements with words like “I’m
not a...but...,” “Not that I care, but...”
or “It’s none of my business, but....”
When it’s called to our attention, we
try to cushion our words with disclaimers,
such as, “I was only teasing/joking” or “I didn’t really mean it.”
Setting an Example
The problem is, no matter how we
qualify our statements or actions, we
are setting an example for our children
to follow. Think they’re not soaking
up your every word and action? Think
again. Any parent who has ever uttered
a curse word and then had his or her
child repeat it back time and again can
attest to that.
A good example is to think about
when you drop a rock into water. When
the rock hits the water, it initially
makes a big splash and then disappears
beneath the surface. But it also sends
out ripples which spread farther and
farther. If you think about your words
and actions like that rock, it’s a good
reminder that what you say and do
can cause quite a widespread reaction.
Here are some ways to try to steer
clear of starting that reaction:
Stop, look and listen. The other
day I heard my oldest daughter snap at
her brother when he asked her a question.
I corrected her, but not much
later caught myself doing the same
thing and snapping back at my husband
when he asked me a question.
Kids mimic what they see and hear.
So many times parents will tell their
kids one thing and then turn around
and do the opposite. You know, it’s the
old “Do as I say, not as I do” phenomenon.
But if we really want to instill in
our kids that this type of behavior is
unacceptable, we must show them by
our actions. Stop and think about what
messages you’re sending your children
or what example you’re setting with
Speak up. Make it extremely clear
that behavior like gossiping, making
fun of people, excluding others or bullying
will not be tolerated.
Ask your kids. Adults do quite a
good job of telling children what they
should or should not be doing, but
what about ourselves? Ask your kids
for feedback on areas they think you
need to work on, such as gossiping,
using foul language or lying. It may be
disheartening to hear your kids call you
out on certain bad habits, but it’s a
good reality check, and you will become
aware of areas you need to work on.
Be accountable. Make sure your
kids know it’s O.K. to talk about
instances when you have not lived
up to the standards you expect from