There is an old saying regarding children: “Do as I say, not as I do.” Whoever coined this phrase didn’t know much about children. Children often do not “do as we say.” We are the role models regarding how our children learn to treat themselves and others. We are the role models regarding whether or not our children learn to take personal responsibility for themselves – physically, emotionally, financially, relationally, spiritually, and organizationally.
Do you avoid responsibility for your own feelings with substances, activities, or with shaming and blaming behavior toward yourself or others? Are you always late and is your desk a mess? Do you eat poorly and lack exercise? Are you always in major credit card debt? Do you lack a relationship with a spiritual source of love and guidance?
If you want your children to be on time, then you need to be on time. If you want your children to be healthy and fit, then you need to be healthy and fit. If you want your children to be honest, then you need to be honest. If you want to raise happy and peaceful children, then you need to role model how to be happy and peaceful. If you want your children to have high self-esteem, then you need to learn to treat yourself and them with kindness and caring. If you treat your children with caring and respect, but your children experience you shaming yourself and treating yourself as if your feelings and needs are not important, there is a good chance they will learn to disrespect themselves as well.
For example, Martin grew up in a family where both of his parents were high achievers and made tons of money. But his mother was a highly judgmental woman and his father was always unhappy and worried about something. Is it any surprise that Martin does well financially, yet is constantly judging himself and others and is often agitated over minor things?
Angie grew up with a mother who was totally devoted to her. In Angie’s mind, her mother was the ideal mother – kind, compassionate, and always ready to listen to Angie and help her with her problems. Her hardworking father was also a kind and caring person. Yet Angie has a hard time taking loving care of herself. She ignores responsibility for her own feelings, does not feed herself well, is often judgmental toward herself, and has a hard time getting things done. She is constantly seeking out a man to fill her up and make her feel worthy. How did this happen with such loving parents?
While Angie’s parents were loving to her, they were not loving to themselves. Angie’s mother used food to avoid her feelings, and was always giving herself up to please others. In addition, she could never quite get organized and was always late. Angie’s father spent his life working hard and using the TV to avoid his feelings. Neither of Angie’s parents role modeled personal responsibility for their physical and emotional health. Angie was shaped far more by how they treated themselves than how they treated her. In fact, because they treated her so lovingly and treated themselves so unlovingly, Angie grew up believing that it was others’ responsibility to love her and fill her, rather than her own responsibility. She grew up being needy and demanding, rather than personally responsible.
Do you want your children to be like you? As a parent, it is very important to take a look at what you are role modeling for your children – not only regarding how you treat others, but how you treat yourself. If there are certain values that you want your children to have when they grow up, they are far more likely to have your values if they deeply respect you. And they will not respect you if you do not treat yourself with respect. It is highly important, if you want your children to be happy, healthy, and personally responsible, to be a role model of happiness, health and personal responsibility.