We all know that children learn what they live, but how much do we think about that in our day to day lives? Do we think about it when we become outraged by a fellow driver? How about when we tell a friend on the phone that we have to go because the doorbell rang - and it really didn't? Are we thinking about it when we watch television shows containing lots of violence or sexual content? Are we even thinking about it when we become exasperated and scream at our children? How can we remember to teach our children subliminally the lessons we want them to learn in life?
- We are only human. If we make a mistake and act in a way we would not want our children to act, we can calmly explain that the behavior was wrong - that even Mommies and Daddies make mistakes sometimes.
- If we act toward our children or someone else in a way that we would not want our children to learn, we can apologize to the person we have offended, teaching our children that when we hurt someone apologizing is the right thing to do.
- If we are tempted to tell a white lie to someone because it's the easier path, we can either not do it or explain to our children why we did it and help them to understand that sometimes we need to respect others' feelings and not say or do things that will hurt them.
- If there is a television show that we would like to watch that is not appropriate for our young children, we can either not watch it, record it to watch it later, or give our children something to do in another room while it is on. There is no reason to expose young children to gratuitous sex and violence.
- If we want to teach our children to be good sports, we can teach them that is okay to cheer for our team, but not to boo the other team. Positively cheering someone on is encouraging. Booing someone is unkind.
- If we want our children to learn to be of service to others, we need to be of service to others. Bake something for the holidays for a shelter with your child, shop for holiday presents for the down-on-their-luck family with your child. Make blankets for the homeless with your child. Clean out your child's toy closet with him and suggest that he go with you to donate the toys he no longer enjoys for children who will appreciate them. Ask your child to go with you when you take outgrown winter coats to a shelter. There are innumerable ways you can serve and provide that example for your children.
- Sit and read in the evening instead of parking in front of the television. Talk about your book or magazine or newspaper, exhibiting enjoyment in what you are reading.
- Practice random acts of kindness: compliment someone who appears to need a pick-me-up, hold a door for someone, stow groceries in someone's car, take a shopping cart back to the store for someone, ask someone sitting alone to join you, smile and say hello to strangers, take the neighbors' newspaper up to their door for them. Just do something nice every day for someone and let your child see you doing it.
Mostly, just remember that your children are watching you and listening to you. How often do you hear something you have said or see something you have done come out of them? If you truly want to teach them to be responsible, caring adults, keep in mind that they are paying attention not just to what you tell them to do, but to what you do.