Model What You Want

by Mary Ann on August 10, 2010

On Sunday as we were singing a hymn in church I heard my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth! We were singing a hymn that I have heard her sing and I sounded just like my mother. It startled me. I have noticed that lately I am wearing my mother’s clothes, those cute little suits with the ruffled jackets! Sometimes when I look in the mirror I am startled to see my mother standing there. Frequently when I answer the phone I hear my mother say Hello; it is me answering but it is my mother’s voice.

It is amazing to me how much like my mother I am. In fact I am a lot like my father too. I have the same droopy right eye, the same heavy brows, and the same entrepreneurial personality.

When we are young we think that we are going to grow up and be different than our parents. We aren’t going to discipline like they do. We aren’t going to waste our time on the stuff they waste theirs on. We aren’t going to live boring lives like they did. We are going to be different!

Then the amazing happens and we find that we are like our parents in more ways than we want to admit. How does that happen?

Of course after singing just like my mother on Sunday I got to thinking about the importance of being whom and what we want ourchildren to be. I though about how important it is to model the behavior that we want our children to emulate because emulate us they will, sooner or later. I thought again about how important a great Core Phase is.

I remember my daughter telling about Jack, her two year old. “Sometimes, as a parent, we’re handed opportunities for self-evaluation on a sliver platter. I was handed such a dish the other day when I caught my two-year old son marching around the living room chanting, “Stop that! Now I have to take that away. Stop that! Now I have to take that away.” Good grief!

I’m happy to contrast that little ditty with something he was muttering in my ear a few nights ago as I was putting him to sleep. “Daddy loves you, daddy loves you, daddy loves you.”

It is absolutely true that who we are and how we behave is what are children are learning. That is why it is so important to pay attention to the early years in our child’s life.

As we think about children ages 0 through about 12,  it is important to remember that they learn more by what we are, the environment we create and the feelings that surround them than through the things we are teaching or the activities they are engaging in.

I have been re-reading the seven keys and a couple of them stand out in relation to this idea of modeling what we want from our children. Key three is “inspire, not require.” We usually think of this in relation to getting our kids to learn something academic but it relates equally well to getting them to be someone of character. As we live a life of goodness, service, charity and love they will hopefully be inspired to live that kind of life as well.

Key seven is “you, not them”. This is usually talked about in relation to our getting an education first so that our children will be inspired to get one as well. I think it goes way beyond just studying, reading and writing. If we want honest children then we have to be honest. If we want kind, loving children then we must be that first. If we want our children to be patient, to speak in a calm voice then that is how we have to treat them.

I had a very unhappy experience today. I have a very loving and kind man for a husband. Today after I returned home from work I sat down to re-do a presentation that I am giving on Wednesday. I am feeling a bit stressed about it. I had prepared the presentation and power point in advance but at the last minute decided to change it. I have to redo it all today. I don’t want to be working on it up until the presentation itself.

I had just begun to work when my newly married daughter arrived. She headed into the office to look for some paperwork. She was back at my side in just a couple of minutes to say, “Mom, dad said to tell you to save what you are working on. The Internet is going down.” I knew that he had been talking to the Quest technician about making some changes in the office.

I was instantly angry, far angrier than the situation deserved. I marched into the office and began yelling at my good husband for not thinking about me and the job that was ahead of me. Then I noticed he was still on the phone talking with the technician. Uhoh!

I stormed out of the office, back to my computer and sat fuming and feeling like a big fool, at the same time. I tried to determine what I was so angry about. I hadn’t even stoped to find out how long the Internet would be down. Worse yet, I had lost my temper, in an ugly way, in front of my daughter.

In about five minutes my husband came into the kitchen and said that the Internet was up. Then he quietly left the house. My daughter came in to say goodbye too. I said to Kate, “I’m sorry I yelled in front of you. Don’t ever yell at your husband like that. I don’t think dad has ever yelled at me like that”. She said it was Ok and gave me a hug.

I don’t feel any better. My husband is still out there somewhere feeling bad and humiliated. My daughter has just had a very poor example of how to handle anger and frustration. She may yell like that at her husband at some time and if she does she will hear my voice coming out of her mouth.

As we prepare to gear up for a new “school” season I hope you will think deeply on the needs of our children to have good examples, good mentors, and patient parents. I hope that we will put kindness, consideration, patience, honesty, dealing well with trouble and stress right up there with reading, writing and math. I hope we will all think deeply about what a good Core Phase really is. It isn’t school, it isn’t The Spark Station, and it isn’t a grade. It is spending time with our families leaning right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, all about relationships, family values, family identity, family routines and responsibilities, accountability and the value of work and play.

There are some questions we can ponder that will assist us to stay on track with good core phase learning. Think about these questions today. If my child could do or know only one thing, what would it be? What is the second most important value you would want your child to internalize? As we honestly prioritize those values and skills that we want to instill in our children we will see great strides in their education and in the peacefulness of the family and home.

Post Script – My husband came home and frankly forgave me. No recriminations, no turning the knife. As I said he is a good man.

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