Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Are You Modeling "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" Parenting?

While I'm not flipping the bird at other drivers,
I definitely model some behaviors I'm not proud of.
(image via babycenter.com)
I have been turning over this blog post in my mind for some time now. I keep starting to write it and then get stuck. Maybe that's because what I am writing about isn't an example of my most stellar, shining parenting moments. In fact, I have been wondering lately if I spend a good deal of my day being a hypocrite.

Now, I don't intend to be hypocritical and I don't generally feel that I am behaving that way, but then I stopped to think about it and it struck me that there is an awful lot of "do as I say and not as I do" going on in my house. 

I know very well that it is what we model for our children and not necessarily what we say that really teaches them. I know that it is the way I say something more than the words I use that makes the impact. But sometimes I feel as though more often than not I am not the paradigm of calm parenting that I wish I was.

"Speak kindly", I tell my children. I hear this come out of my mouth all the time. When my kids are getting angry at each other I remind them that yelling at someone isn't going to get them what they want (while sheepishly remembering how I lost my temper earlier and yelled). "Speak kindly to each other", I tell them and then wonder if I said that in an exasperated and snappish way. "Be kind to your sister" I remind my son, then flash back to me losing my temper with her. 

What am I actually teaching them? That words don't matter much? That you can be kind except when you are really frustrated? Most of all I worry about what I am teaching my son when he sees how frustrated I get with his sister. I want more than anything for them to be kind to each other, yet he sees how she pushes my buttons and he sees how he can polarize himself by being "the good twin". I hear her say that she doesn't think he likes her and that breaks my heart. I fear he does it to be closer to me, to be on my "side". Does he think I don't like her? I worry that I am teaching them both that you aren't lovable when you make other people angry.

I tend to try and handle things on my own
until the point of no return. 
"Be patient", I tell my children. Teaching my children about patience and delayed gratification is something I work on all the time. But I often lose my patience with them (even while telling them they need to be more patient about something)! I teach them about cooling down, taking deep breaths, being mindful...and sometimes I am really good at modeling all of that. But then there are times when my need to be somewhere on time trumps my desire to be present and in the moment. In those moments I have no patience for my daughter dragging out the bedtime routine for an extra hour or my son dreamily taking 45 minutes to put on his socks in the morning. And even in the moment of my losing my patience I am hazily aware that what I am doing is pointless and actually making things drag on longer than if I simply slowed down & connected for 5 minutes with each of them. And yet, I don't stop. I threaten, I bang things, I pretty much act way more immature than my 4 1/2 year olds. 

What am I teaching them? That you should be patient, but only when it's convenient? I can be patient when I have no agenda to be anywhere else, but an appointment at the doctor is way more important than you or you needs? And how can I expect my children to listen to my advice when I don't walk the walk?

More than anything, I just want them to be happy.
And more than anything I want to model happiness.
I know that the reason I set different expectations for my kids than for myself is that I want them to develop better habits than I have. Yet, I know the strongest way to reinforce these good behaviors is to model them myself. So, while I am not cursing at other drivers on my way to preschool, I am not doing such a great job of being the parent I want to be on a regular basis.  

Now, I know I am actually a really good mom. And I do a lot of things right. I also happen to be awesome at repairing things with my kids when I do make a mistake. I talk to them, I connect after I calm down, I explain. But I feel like I am repairing way too often. How does one learn to become the parent who models the behaviors we want our children to have when we don't really have those skills mastered ourselves? It feels a bit like teaching someone to ride a bike when you have no clue how to do it yourself.

I'm working on all of this...and I'd love any advice (or commiseration)!

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach
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