Leading By Example

Have you ever done something and then thought, “Hey, I hope my son/daughter doesn’t see me doing this”?

For me it’s usually something related to food. We have a gate between our kitchen and lounge, and I can occasionally be found hiding in the kitchen, scoffing some chocolatey treat. Who am I hiding from? My daughter!

I’m no role model when it comes to good eating habits. And although I do my best to ensure she eats well now, I’m waiting for the day when she spots me sneaking that extra piece of cake for dinner and thinks, “Hang on, how come Mama gets to have dessert before dinner?”

I also have a habit of walking around when I eat. Life can get pretty hectic, and snacking on the go is sometimes the only way to ensure I do eat. But I expect my daughter to sit down when she eats, and I won’t give her a snack to munch on while she runs around the house. Largely this is because I object to vacuuming more than once a day!

But seriously, why does she have to do things that I don’t? Obviously, I am an adult and there are many things I do that she can’t, but in most cases shouldn’t we be following the same “rules”?

See, I’ve been thinking lately about how I want my daughter to act as she gets older.

I’d like her to be well-mannered, respectful and affectionate. I’d prefer if she did not throw tantrums, and listened when I asked her to do something. I’d like her to take responsibility for her actions, and not be a ‘sore loser’. I also do not want her to use inappropriate language, and I certainly don’t want her to think that resorting to violence is a means to an end.

And of course, I’d like her to eat well, and have a healthy, balanced diet!

That’s a lot to expect from a 2 year old. But I think sowing the seeds of these behaviours now is far easier than trying to teach an older child new ways of behaving. Later on, she will learn the significance of what she’s saying and doing. But for the time being, I’m quite happy for her to simply model what I do, except in the food department!

That basically means I need to ensure I act in ways that I would like her to copy. If I want her to say please and thank you, then I should say please and thank you. If I want her to say sorry because she accidentally (or intentionally!) hurt somebody, then I should do the same. Even though it might not mean anything to her at this age, I feel it’s important to set up good habits for later on.

I’ve found it works beautifully thus far, almost too well! The other day her cousin bumped into her and she apologised!

On the other hand, I should refrain from doing anything that I don’t want her to emulate. If I drop four letter bombs in front of her, I expect that these words will make a reappearance, either immediately, or in the following days! And, as I’ve found through my own childhood memories of advertising jingles, “unlearning” something is an impossible task!

Of course, she will encounter other influences than myself in her life. But hopefully I’ll be able to steer her in the right direction, and later on, she’ll make her own choices based on the foundations I laid. For the time being, I’m going to enjoy being the centre of my little girl’s world, and try to live up to her expectations.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jess on August 26, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    I used to be told “Do as I say and not as I do” and this keeps coming into my head at the moment as I have the double standards with my daughter too eg the don’t eat unless sitting down, but I don’t always do that and out at hubby’s sports I don’t always insist on sitting either…. hmmmm some work for me to do as a mum!


  2. One of my favourite sayings is “Don’t worry that your kids never listen, worry that they’re always watching.” We try really hard to live by the rule that what goes for one goes for all, although we haven’t succumbed on cool drink yet! I think it’s a basic acknowledgement that children are human too. Apart from when things like safety are involved, they have the same rights we do and should be treated the same way.


  3. Posted by Be on August 27, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Saddest day of my parenting life was when my daughter recognised the bright pink paper bag from the donut shop, no more hiding my glazed twist from her.


  4. Posted by Niki on September 4, 2009 at 9:14 am

    The other day I had a conversation with my 7 year old about how starving he seemed to be when he came home from school. I informed him that from now on we will go back to eating wholegrain bread as a way to fill him up. The look on his face prompted me to say ‘I’m tired of you eating junk all the time and not eating healthy’ to which he replied ‘Well you are the one buying it!’. I really can’t argue with that.

    The strange thing is, I eat brown rice, steamed vegetables and lean meat but somehow I have put my kids into a habit of chicken nuggets, sausages and white bread. I don’t know how that happened or why I let it continue to the point where they turn up their nose at anything but convenience food. It’s just a matter now of trying to get their palette used to brown rice and lean meat (Thankfully they have always eaten steamed vegetables.. the one good food group I’ve managed to maintain with them).


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