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Alyson Schafer Advice: 9 Things Your Kids Should Catch You Doing

We know not to model bad behaviour, but what about being a good example for our kids?
Caucasian couple kissing baby in backyard
Caucasian couple kissing baby in backyard

We know our children watch and imitate us. It’s called modelling. So if we don’t want our children to swear, we shouldn’t swear. If we don’t want our teens to text and drive, we shouldn’t either.

But have you ever thought of what they SHOULD see us doing? We can imprint some good behaviours on our children if we did them more publicly. Check out my list of things our children should see us doing:

1. Paying Bills/Managing Money

We expect children to learn to be good with their money and to have financial literacy skills but we tend to be very private about our money and how we mange it. Instead, show your children you have financial tools, budgets and planners that help you be financial savvy.

I have a binder that I keep my bills in with a tab for each payee. I have a laminated budget in the binder and meet with my financial planner regularly. They might not grow up to adopt my systems, but they are more likely to understand money needs to be managed -- like looking after your teeth or caring for the house and lawn.

2. Voting

We have low voter turn out in this country. Chances are, if your kids see you putting some time and attention in to the electoral process, they will learn to participate in democratic process of voting when they reach age 18, too. They may not vote for your party, but understanding the importance of voting in shaping the policies of the country is important.

I also recommend families use the democratic process of holding regular family meetings so children feel empowered to have a voice and make change possible from an early age.

3. Crying

I am amazed at how many people say “I never saw my parent cry.” The idea that you need to be brave or strong in the eyes of your children only sends the message that crying is somehow weak and wrong. Instead, we need to demonstrate that humans have a wide range of emotions and expressing sadness is okay. Don’t pass on that repression baton to the next generation.

4. Apologizing

I am sorry. Three simple words. If we want our children to learn to accept responsibility for their own actions and mistakes, let them see how to be graceful when you make a mistake yourself. Parents are not always right. Even adults make mistakes and need to make reparations and there's no shame in that.

5. Having a hobby

Some kids only see their parents working or recovering from work in a vegetative state, usually in front of the TV. These kids miss out on the idea that people actually have outside interests and passions. We need to model balance.

I have a friend who builds canoes and makes paddles in his garage. Do your children see you expressing your passions and various dimensions life can have?

6. PDA

"EWWWWW…. They are kissing!" I love to make my kids squirm by showing affection. For all the moaning and eye-covering our PDA creates, just know that inside that protesting child, they are actually feeling very safe and secure. Knowing the leaders of the family are happy with one another means the child’s world is functioning well and stable. Lots of love to go around. Don’t just know it – show it!

7. Being good to your extended family

If you want your children to visit you in the old folks home, you had better show them how to care for the aging and elderly. They will develop their expectations of frequency of visiting by what they observe. If you want your siblings to work it out and get along, think about how you treat their aunt and uncle. Are you harbouring grudges that your children witness? It’s a license to not forgive their own sister or brother for some transgression.

8. Charitable

Its easy to click a donate button online and support a friend’s run for charity, but your philanthropy won’t be apparent to your children until you do something they can observe. Taking clothes to the Goodwill, dropping off food at the food bank or working a shift at the out-of-the-cold program will catch your children’s eye more than passive money transfers. Better yet -- ask them to participate with you, too!

9. Being bad at something, but doing it anyway

The old saying “if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well” is a mantra all therapist hate. The reality is, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly! Too often our children expect perfection without any effort. Instead, they have to see the whole messy process and that joy can come in the journey, not just when things end well.

Parents often stop engaging in things they don’t excel at so their children don’t see them being neophytes and performing poorly. Show your children how you can struggle to learn and improve, too. First time water skiing, learning to cook -- go make a happy fool of yourself and relish it with your children.


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