Skip the Sermon and Set a Better Example in the Following Areas

The worst kind of preacher is the one who insists you do what they say rather than doing what they do. We have a word for that kind of preacher: hypocrite. You don’t have to dress up and give a speech in front of a Sunday morning assembly to be a preacher. You just have to be someone who lectures others about what they should and shouldn’t do and how they should and shouldn’t live. In other words, you just have to be a parent. 

You could also be a politician. There were plenty of them who violated their own COVID restrictions. Such behavior gave mixed messages about how people should self-regulate. When the people telling you to do something are caught doing the opposite, it creates anger, resentment, and confusion about the proper course of action. If you felt that way based on some politician’s behavior, imagine how much worse it is on your children when they get that kind of mixed message from you? If you want them to be good citizens who care about matters of social good, environmental responsibility, and healthy living, here are some of the things you need to model:

Waste Not, Want Not

You can’t persuade someone to care about their environmental impact if they never see you recycle anything. If there are no recycle bins in the home, why would you expect your kids to use them when they are away from home. If you want to get your kids to be less wasteful, they should see you shopping at a zero waste store

All kinds of products produce unnecessary waste. You could purchase reusable paper towels. But instead, you buy the disposable kind. You tell your kids how harmful plastic is to the environment while brushing their hair with a plastic brush instead of using a bamboo brush that is all natural and better for your hair. 

Part of the problem is that our awareness of the problem far outstrips our ability to address it. Price and convenience are also factors. It is easier and cheaper to just keep doing the same old, environmentally harmful thing we have always done. At some point, you have to model the message that some things are more important than convenience. Some hard things are worth the price of doing. You cannot deliver that message with words. You have to live it every day.

Bad Habits Can Be Broken

The falsehood that bad habits cannot be broken is just a part of what children can learn from your bad habits. When you smoke, you will raise a child who sees smoking as no big deal and not worth trying to quit. When you gossip and meddle in the affairs of others, you are teaching your child that doing so is appropriate. These particular bad habits are poor examples. But the real message is that when you are an adult, bad habits are okay. Some habits can never be changed while others aren’t worth the effort. 

You Are What You Eat

If you eat as much candy as your kids, skip the sermon about them watching what they eat. Kids don’t watch what they eat; they watch what you eat. Some say that the key to your kids eating healthier is to let them watch cooking shows. That could teach them some useful techniques in the kitchen. But it will not override the lessons they learn from watching you eat. 

Sure, you are very responsible about how many non-diet sodas you drink, or how much of that carton of ice cream you eat while on the couch watching soaps. But your kids are incapable of understanding what makes your consumption of those products okay while they get in trouble for doing the same thing. 

It is also important to restrict your own diet when your child is restricted to a certain diet. If they cannot have gluten, you need to eliminate it from your life, as well. If one person in the home has a peanut allergy, everyone has a peanut allergy. This is vitally important for modeling the behavior that will keep your child healthy.

No one can be a perfect role model. That said, when it comes to eco-friendly solutions, bad habits you don’t want them to have, and diet, preach less and do more.

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