How to keep children from getting their parents’ faults

siminsarahashim asks: My husband is a good man who loves his family a lot, but he has many bad habits, such as sitting around most of the time watching TV while drinking beer. I don’t want our children to grow up to behave that same way. What can I do?

Hi siminsarahashim –

I have both good and bad news for you.  I’ll give the bad news first – children learn immensely more from what they see their parents do than what their parents tell them.  Think about it – imagine if someone tried to teach you your first language, or how to walk; it’d just be impossible!   A child’s brain observes those around them, and the child then copies that to a giant extent.  This is why it’s so silly for parents who smoke, drink, or use bad language to try to teach their children not to do such things: the desire for the kid to emulate their parents is so much stronger than the desire to obey!

So if your husband sits around the house, watching TV and drinking beer – especially since he is a loving husband and dad – your children will learn that that’s the behavior of a great guy.  And they’re likely to emulate it, in their own way of course (they might not watch the same shows, etc.).  Also, if you have some habits or qualities yourself that you aren’t terribly thrilled with, I’m giving you the bad news that you’ll very likely see those behaviors show up in your kids at some point too.

However, I also have good news.  If you or your husband have behaviors that your children dislike, those kids are very likely to run away from them as hard as they can.  When Handsome was growing up, almost everyone he knew at least tried smoking cigarettes, and many developed the smoking habit.  But two people he knew never once tried them.  Why?  Because their parents smoked!  Their parents were habitual chain-smokers, and their kids found that totally disgusting.  And swore at a young age “Man I’m never going to do that gross thing!”  And they didn’t.  And both those kids absolutely adored their parents, too!

So what can you do?  Well, you certainly can tell your kids that their wonderful father has some qualities that you aren’t so crazy about.  You can model other behaviors for them (they’ll copy you as much as they do him).  And you can work to teach them the beautiful lesson that we love people (and dogs!) with all their faults, even though we wish those faults would go away.

And in the end, siminsarahashim, that lesson is so important that maybe, in the long run, your husband’s habits are the best thing he could possibly bring you.  Imagine how horrible it would be for a child to grow up with perfect parents, and then beat themselves up for not being as perfect as they are, and expect perfection from all other people.  This is so much better.

Thanks, and good luck!



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