It’s true, I believe the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” So I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure my kids only saw what I wanted them to. But many of my friends believe the philosophy, “Do as I say and not as I do.”
When I would hide things from my kids, my friends would tease me and remind me that I’m the mom, the adult and I have a right to do things that kids are’t allowed to do yet.
I agree with that – about some things. About drinking, sure. They can drink alcohol when they are over 21, so if I have a glass of wine and tell them that it’s an adult thing, that’s okay.
But, what about things that don’t have a legal age limit. or do have a legal limit yet I don’t ever want them to do? How do you tell them that it’s okay to do if you’re an adult?
I’m talking about things like smoking cigarettes or drinking soda or eating candy for breakfast. These are the bad habits I don’t want my kids to ever do.
I confess, I drink diet coke and sometimes I have it first thing in the morning. I put it in a dark coffee mug and pretend its coffee. I even admit to telling my kids when they were little, “Don’t touch – HOT!”
I have been a closet chocolate eater for pretty much all my life. I have “emergency” chocolate hidden that even my teenagers would never find. I tell them that we’ve had enough junk food for the day and too much is unhealthy. I’ve been known to eat an apple with them then go downstairs to do some laundry only to scarf down a few mini Dove candies.
I don’t smoke and never have. Maybe this is actually a case where “do as I say and not as I do” has worked. My mom and her twin smoked until I was 30, always saying, “I wish I could quit.” I hated the smell and the grumbling about the cost, or how much they wanted to quit so much, that I have never smoked, not once. I don’t think my siblings have either. If I did smoke, I would have done everything in my power to hide it from my kids.
I suppose there are no secrets — kids are much more observant than we think they are. Maybe I thought I was hiding things from them, but I have a feeling they were on to me most of the time. They asked me recently how old I was when I started drinking coffee. When I told them a few years ago, they didn’t believe me because they said I drank it when they were little. I guess I got away with that one until now!
It seems the best way to get your kids to have good habits is by actually having the good habits yourself. Kids, yes, even teenagers, tend to follow in the footsteps of their parents. You can fool them for a while, but when they find out you’ve been lying to them or tricking them, not only do your bad habits shine but also now you’re a fraud.
Set the example you want for your kids and be genuine about it. If you want them to be polite, be polite. If you want them to be active, then don’t sit around and be lazy. If you don’t want them to drink soda because it’s bad for them, then don’t you drink it.
My secrets actually ended up working against me! My teenagers now have the good habits I always wanted them to have, and they are too smart for me to hide things from. The roles have reversed. I can’t get away with anything anymore, and I am now eating my words. I’ve created monsters that now lecture me on how horrible cola is for me, how important breakfast is, how I shouldn’t eat just potato chips for lunch. I guess I got what I wanted, and through my teens I am becoming a better person, too!