Dr. Ezi Beedie.
Parenting is a job one is scarcely trained for, albeit the hardest job to undertake.
Though there are various theories and opinions on the best ways to rear children, it is only by the grace of God that one can raise a child successfully.
Most children copy the parenting styles of their parents while others are determined to do the job differently from their parents.
Whatever style you adopt, one phrase resonates with children: ‘Do as you are told.’
How many times, as parents, have we uttered this phrase? 10? 20? Uncountable.
The insistent repetition of this phrase, begs the question: “Is there a disconnect between what parents tell their children and what parents do?” A contradiction between words and actions? We teach our children all the time, even when we do not realise we are doing it.
It has been established that children learn from watching, listening and copying.
Children learn actions and attitudes (Crary, 1993; Smith, et al, 1994). Psychologists have found that children really “do as parents do, not as they say”.
They repeat what they hear parents say and imitate what they see parents do. Children develop behaviours through observing their parents in day-to-day life.
Therefore, every behaviour that we engage in should be worthy of imitating because our children will imitate it.
Consider the story of a child who swore in class and had his mother called in by the teacher.
When told of her son’s actions, the mother yelled “Where the f*** did you learn that from,” thus displaying the use of a word she no doubt taught her son never to use.
Actions do speak louder than words, parents!
How justified are we to admonish or punish a child that steals or cheats in an exam when we are prepared to do whatever it takes to make a buck.
Can we teach our children that physical violence is not the way to solve problems by hitting them? Can we encourage our children to become responsible by refusing to admit our mistakes? Does breaking our promises instill integrity? If we want to teach children to respect others, we have to show them by our words and actions that we respect ourselves and them.
Use tones and words that are respectful. If we want to impart generosity in our children, we start being generous to others in their presence.
If we want our children to acquire conflict resolution skills, we start resolving conflict with others in front of the children.
Only if we have developed integrity in the way we live our own lives will we be able to provide our children with the necessary model for mature, adult functioning.
Our honesty and maturity are far more important in determining the healthy development of our children than any techniques prescribed by child-rearing experts (Firestone, 2010).
It is sheer hypocrisy to reprimand or punish children for doing the same things we do, albeit on smaller scale. Maybe, just maybe, the children need to see us do as we say and they will follow -live the children’s ‘follow your leader’ game.
After all, the best way to impart the right behaviour is by demonstrating what you want to see in your children. We must strive to be the sort of people we hope our children to become. The school should not be expected to do it all, if at all. Therefore, parental investment in the development and maturity of children should go beyond sending them to expensive schools and mere words to socialising them by modelling acceptable behaviours.
As mentioned earlier, children generally copy what they see their parents and the adults around them do, for instance family value and belief systems.
Developmental psychologists have always known children learn by imitating adults. But while most parents are ready to teach their children discipline …, they are less ready to accept the idea that they can teach only by example (Firestone, 2010).
There is no gainsaying the fact that there are exceptions. Granted some children are adamant to imbibe the belief and values of their parents.
However, the importance of modelling the right behaviour for our children of ‘microwave’ and ‘social media’ generation cannot be over emphasized.
These children are swarmed daily by culture shocking and alarming behaviours in the social media which are seemingly celebrated.
They live in a generation in which values and beliefs are considered old fashioned, in which putting your sex tape on the internet can, sadly, make you not only a ‘celebrity’ but also super rich.
As our children struggle to sieve through these behaviours, it is pertinent that the right and acceptable behaviour is modelled at home.
The ethics, values, cultures and traditions of our great nation need to be passed onto the leaders of tomorrow by action not just in words.
What we teach our children today, especially by example, will influence tomorrow’s world. Our children should look up to us.
We cannot trust celebrities to raise our children; therefore the need for us to be our children’s primary role models is imperative.
Perhaps, it is time we tell our children to do as we do. Time for a change of phrase: “Do what you see me do.”
This calls for taking a critical look at our ethics, values, beliefs, integrity, transparency, passion, consistency and patriotism as parents.
If parents can truly search inward, in this dispensation of ‘change agenda’, there is still hope for a greater, better, transparent, and patriotic Nigeria.
As our children grow into responsible adults with unquestionable character, they will be ready to take up the leadership of this great nation.