Jan 232013

Photo by Tumbleweed Infant House

Remember in kindergarten when we learned the golden rule? Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Remember last week when you heard that parent say to their child, “If you want them to share with you, you might try sharing with them”?

Now, remember that old, wishful parenting saying, “Do as I say, not as I do”? And, remember how that doesn’t work at all? Remember how the research keeps telling us that kids who grow up in houses that utilize spanking generally exhibit more aggression with peers? There seems to be a pattern here.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Maybe he was on to something.

I recently wrote a post called Sit Down and Breathe advocating that calming a storm within a child or house may actually start with us literally sitting down and breathing. This works because the child sees us and feels us do something different. The behavior is contagious. The child learns a new skill because we are modeling it, not because we are trying to force them to do it, too. They step into the new moment with us because it feels better. We have become the change we wanted to see.

It is no secret that if we treat people with respect, we are likely to get respect back. Gandhi knew it. Our kindergarten teacher knew it. Heck even most preschoolers know it. How many of us have asked our child why they hit someone only to have them say, “Well, he hit me first.” We recognize things like this all the time. But, for some reason, when it comes to our own parenting, we don’t get it.

We think we can tell, lecture, bribe, coerce, force, trick or teach our children into being the people we want them to be. Or better yet, we want them to just naturally be born perfect. But the truth is that no matter how much we tell, lecture, bribe, coerce, force, trick or teach our children, in the end our own behaviors will have much greater influence over the people they become. We have to listen to Ganhdi. We have to be the change we want to see.

We have to be the person we want our children to become.

Photo by Tumbleweed Infant House

The other day I told my child that it was time to clean up. He continued to work on the puzzles he had spread all over the floor. I asked him again, my voice raising a little louder, my intention stronger. He continued to work and then finally he said, “I’m in the middle of this right now, I will talk to you in a minute.” In that moment, I saw myself. Cooking, cleaning, whatever. Brushing off his questions to me, focused on my task and saying…well…those exact words. And then I remembered him trying to get my attention, getting louder, his intention getting stronger. Our roles reversed.

If I want him to interact differently with me, I need to be the change I want to see. I need to show him some other options: “I’m really focused right now, can you give me five minutes?” or “I can tell you really need me, let me get to a stopping point and I will give you my full attention” or “Yep, you’re right, we are supposed to be going to the park and I’m not ready yet. Can you help me finish this so I can get through it quicker?”

Be the person you want your child to become.

Ever found yourself yelling, “STOP YELLING!” only to have the child or other person yell back, “I’M NOT YELLING!”? Crazy, but it happens. Be the change. Get close to a loud child and speak very, very quietly. Chances are they will lower their voice to match yours. Magic? Nope. Be the change.

Two Degrees of Suburbia recently wrote, in my opinion, one of the most poignant posts ever. She wrote, “If you want your kid to say please and thank you….just say please and thank you.” Hallelujah. No more, no less.

Be the person you want your child to become.

If you want your child to listen, then you must hear them out. Look at them when they speak. Don’t interrupt them. Respond fully and genuinely.

If you want your child to trust, then you must trust them. Give them opportunities to lead as often as you expect them to follow. Value their opinions and efforts.

If you want your child to be respectful, then you must respect them and others. Speak thoughtfully and graciously. Understand that their bodies and minds are theirs, and behave in a way that shows you understand and value all the other bodies and minds that share this world of ours.

If you want your child to move through life with integrity, then you must show them the value of standing up for what we know is right and challenging what is wrong, even when that wrong came from our own selves. Admitting mistakes and making amends when we break the trust of others, including our children is vital. You can tell a child to say, “I’m sorry,” but if they see you saying you’re sorry in moments when you have let someone down, they may actually see the beauty in it.

If you want your child to be kind, you must be kind.

You get the picture.

If you want your child to be X, then you must be X.

If you want your child to be Y, then you must be Y.

What if it really is just as simple as that? Gandhi was a pretty smart guy. The next time you find yourself feeling frustrated with something your child is doing, or not doing, do a little soul searching yourself. Is there any way you may be modeling this? Is there anything you can do to be the change you want to see?  What are you seeing in your child that is truly just a reflection of yourself? And then, be the change. Think of it this way, even if it doesn’t have an immediate impact on your child, it will have a pretty immediate impact on you. We don’t want our children to be kind, patient, trusting, thoughtful, gracious, respectful, etc just for the heck of it. Nope, we want to help them embody these attributes because we know it will make their lives better. Maybe it will work for us, too.

 Posted by at 5:26 pm

  29 Responses to “Be The Person You Want Your Child To Become”

  1. Oh, Darci – Beautiful! Just beautiful! Thank you for sharing so lovingly. I can relate COMPLETELY to the dinnertime “don’t interrupt me” speech. It has me reflecting on how I interrupt my children. Gratefully, Emily

    • You know, since writing this, I have become aware of how often I interrupt my children’s conversation with each other to get my own agenda met. Last night, the boys were playing in their room talking about very important things (Star Wars and Buzz Lightyear I presume) when I said something to them from the hallway. They made no indication that they heard me. When I realized I was interrupting them, I changed my behavior. I approached them, sat down close and waited for a pause in their conversation and said “excuse me.” They both looked at me and I told them what I needed. It worked! It was kind of amazing and such a different experience!

      • Darci – I love this post and I love your example in this reply too. I just wrote about this last week on how we can change the way we choose to talk to our children, we can be interested so they may be interested, we can connect with them so they may want to connect with us. I have made a huge effort over the last years as my boys are growing and becoming fully immersed in their play and trying super hard not to interrupt but rather to join in, or at least politely enter into the conversation, much like I would like if they did in return, and no surprise, it works. Not too long ago at a birthday party I was chatting away with another mom and my 2 year old approached me, waited till there was silence, then tapped me gently and said “xcuse the ruption mama, i need you” :) so lovely! Sharing this post- it’s excellent!

  2. So so true, love every word.

  3. great blog. Unfortunately for our family the please and thank you doesn’t work as easy as that. I am a total please and thank you freak, I say it too much probably and my son knows how to use it, say it, and he was good about it for a time but, these days he can remember the name of every dinosaur but he either can’t remember or choses not to say “may i have that please” instead of “gimme that”.

    • I think we have to remember that instilling these types of foundational attitudes, beliefs and behaviors is a marathon not a sprint. Kids are negotiating lots of developmental challenges all at one time, and we cant expect them to always use all the skills they acquire. It will all come together in the end!

  4. This is very true Darci. I believe that what kids see, kids do and that’s why I agree to every word you said in this blog. I know lots of moms and dads will be able to learn a lot from this. Thanks for sharing this wonderful read. Really appreciate it. :)

  5. I wrote about this recently too, and used the same Gandhi quote.

    I’m adding a link to your article.

  6. oh man – words straight to the core for me. my little tot is 18 months and is in imitation mode all the live long day. she’s soaking my behaviour up like a sponge and giving it straight back. these little people teach us so much if we take the time to watch and listen.
    thanks for the timely words.

  7. What a wonderful post and such great reminder. This is something I have been thinking about recently, but not implementing consistently. Reading your words helps me to stop asking, “How can I help change my child’s behavior?” and instead step back, regroup and ask myself, “How am I going to change my own behavior?”

    • Thank you so much Vanessa. I love your website (deepbreathofparenting.com) so much and appreciate your stopping by here! Implementing consistently is hard for everyone I think. We have to be gentle with ourselves and realize that every time we do it, we are practicing and we get one little tiny step closer. Every time we catch ourselves not doing it and redirect ourselves we are modeling this for our children as well. It’s not just our children who are growing, it’s us as parents as well!

      • I just found your reply to my note. Thank you for your message. For me, there is no path of self development like mothering. I appreciate all the support and inspiration I find along the way. I am really struck tonight how in so many ways we have lost the traditional “village model” of raising children. But, the possibility for global support, perspective and connection is vast.

  8. Thanks for making this so clear and applicable. I’ll be sharing!

    I find when we hit on larger truth that we see it everywhere. I notice the golden rule in parenting, in politics, even in our relation with the planet. Somehow, “do unto the earth as you would have the earth do unto you” makes more and more sense.

    • Oh Laura, I love “do unto the earth as you would have the earth do unto you.” I have been thinking about that ever since I read your comment. What would I love the earth to do for me? Words that come immediately to mind: Nurture, provide, protect, support, grow, strengthen, connect, beauty. (Not surprisingly, also all things I would like to be connected to my parenting!) Moving through my community and days with these thoughts in mind would definitely impact the things I do to the earth. Thank you so much for sharing this thought!

  9. This is so beautifully written. I was having a FB debate with a group of people and someone kept going on and on about how “in my day we were taught respect by a good beating”. The concept is so ridiculous to me and I couldnt figure out the right words to explain to him how wrong that was. That it didnt teach anything. I just copied and pasted part of your article along with a link. Thank you for giving me the words to say what was in my heart

    • Hope it’s helpful in your debate. Honestly, while on one hand I wish that there was no need to debate the virtues of being kind and gentle to our children, I am so happy that the dialogue is at least happening! I would love to hear how your discussion transpires, keep me posted!

  10. Your blogs are awesome. Thank You!!!

  11. Our youngest son struggles with many health issues. When he was 15 months old, and sitting on my lap having electrodes pasted on his head for one of many tests that he has endured, he looked up at me and said, “Don’t you get it, I Gandhi”. He is very soft spoken and rarely uses phrases, and has never said anything like this before or since then. I decided soon after this happened to look up the word Ghandi with another word that is on my mind when I am feeling discouraged and the combination of “know Gandhi Portland” led me to this post and it is perfect. THANK YOU!

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  13. […] Be the person you want your child to become – Dr Darci Walker […]

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