Have you ever done something and realized later on that what you did was exactly something you teach your children to never do? Well, being the struggling and imperfect parent that I am, I have done so–not only once but a number of times! And while this admission may be sad, this is the truth. In order to be a better parent we must practice parenting through actions and words.
A lot of parents know exactly the things we want to teach our children or the way we want them to behave or live their lives. However we often forget that more than the words we say, our children look at our actions. For example, we teach our children the importance of sharing but we fail to give to the needy, we teach them about forgiveness but we dwell on grudges, we teach them about kindness but we display rudeness to others.
Children learn most of their behavior through imitation. This means that while it is important that we use words to teach our children lessons, teaching them through actions is more effective. Parenting through actions and words is the best way to set examples for your children. In this way they will hear your advice, and then be able to imitate it as well.
Let me share with you this great poem from Mary Rita Schilke Korzan:
“When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking”
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang up my first painting on the refrigerator, and I wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I knew that little things are special things.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I believed there is a God I could always talk to.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s alright to cry.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked…and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.
You might also want to read this beautiful reflection of a mother about how parents often forget the things we teach our children as we live our own lives: “What Are Your Joy Stealers?“