I saw this floating around FaceBook this morning and it got me thinking about parents in particular, especially since this picture was designed with them in mind. Full disclosure, I am not a parent to any living children. I’ve never had to raise kids or otherwise deal with them for any extended length of time, so it is entirely possible I have no idea what I’m talking about. Since Joe and I have been trying to start a family, different parenting styles and issues have been the topic of discussion lately, and we’ve been talking about how we plan to raise our future children.
One of the most important things for me is honesty. If we expect our children to be honest people, we have to be honest with them, even if they don’t like the answer. Saying one thing in the moment and then “changing our minds” when they bring it up again will only teach them that it is okay to say one thing and mean another, which isn’t a lesson I want them to learn. I want my kids to be people of their word, not provide a vague answer when they’re initially asked and then say what they really mean when push comes to shove.
The first few entries on the picture above, in my mind, present the exact attitude I am trying to avoid in my parenting, and I think parents who do this with their kids are teaching them it is okay to treat other people that way. How can we expect our children to be honest and upfront if we’re not honest and upfront with them? Not only are you getting their hopes up in the moment, you’re teaching them it is okay to lie. And eventually, they’re going to get old enough to know what “we’ll see” really means, and realize you’ve been lying to them for pretty much their whole lives. Is that what parents really want?
Look, I get it. Kids ask for things a million times a day, especially if they don’t get the answer that they want. They cry, they scream, they say that you’re the worst parent ever. Once they get old enough, they even say they hate you. And you’re busy. You have a million other things going on, a million other things that are equally deserving of your attention, but think about the long term. If you don’t get that load of laundry done right this second, is everyone going to go naked tomorrow? Would you rather have your kids think the dishes are more important than them? That may not be the message you are trying to convey, but that is the message they hear when you dismiss them with one of those phrases above.
At the end of the day, kids are sponges. They soak up everything around them. Just ask the parent of any toddler who’s said a “bad word” within ear shot of their kid. I know it’s difficult, I can understand being busy and not wanting to deal with someone right away, especially if you know it’s going to cause a fight or an upset kid. The temptation to put off the fight is strong, especially if its the 4th fight you’ve had to deal with that day. But our kids take their cues on how to behave from the people they are around the most, especially when they realize we’re under a ton of stress. Take that opportunity to teach them to be people of their words, instead of people who deflect until they have no choice but to deal with their problems.