In one of the newsletters I get regularly, I received a link to the article titled “Social media…dirty word or essential skill?” I am sure most parents with Internet access and a teen or two would vote for “dirty word”, considering their kids’ obsessive texting, chatting and emailing.
The article makes the point that most grownups use those very same tools in their work. A mobile phone has long been a vital business instrument. Email is so essential, many people freak out when their email is down and wait impatiently for it to come back up, when there are other options they could use. Many grownups are totally OK with having an intra-company forum, where they post their questions and research for answers from colleagues, because “that’s for work”.
However, those same grownups frown upon similar tools being used by their kids, not realizing the kids are preparing for what they see as their future.
This got me thinking. Are there other things we (try to) prevent our kids from doing, yet continue to do ourselves.
In fact, I was thinking this when I was putting a packet of chocolate in a high place in the pantry, so that my 7 year-old daughter could not see it… It dawned on me that if chocolate was all right for me, it should be all right for her, but if it is not all right, then why was I buying it in the first place?
I then noticed friends telling their children to eat more vegetables and less sweets, but as soon as the main part of the meal was over, the kids went to play and the grownups had coffee and cake.
When I was very young, my parents used to have coffee around 4pm every day, before my dad went back to his store. It was a lovely time for us as a family, and I enjoyed it very much, but I was the only one who got no coffee. My parents explained to me that coffee was not good for kids. I finally convinced them to let me drink the last bit of lukewarm coffee left in their cups, and they tasted heavenly. To this day, I love coffee, but I keep wondering if this is because coffee really tastes good or because I relive those childhood moments with my parents through it. Still, I ended up liking coffee as my parents did.
In much the same way, most parents will strongly agree that alcohol is no good for kids and will spy on their kids, especially in their teen years, to make sure they do not have access to alcohol. All the while, the same parents will be “enjoying a glass of red” with friends, “going out for a few beers” or “just drinking to relax and unwind”.
Interestingly enough, I lived in the USA for 6 months as an exchange student in 11th grade. Having grown up with no alcohol, other than on holiday dinners, I was confused to see my friends making enormous efforts to sneak “6-packs” into parties and compete for a better social status by offering others beer or showing off their ability to “drink like a man”. To me, they were just acting stupid, but teenagers are aspiring adults and they were only doing their best to grow up.
Do you ever yell at your kids, “Don’t raise your voice to me”? Have you ever considered the hidden message in your tone, pitch and volume? Have you ever noticed your body language and facial expression when you get upset at your kids like this?
Do you ever tease, swear, flip the finger or drive over the speed limit?
Do you let others do the work around the house?
Kids are simple thinkers, you see, and they learn mostly by imitation. They watch you carefully, listen to you, filter out anything that does not match the overall picture (your words) and remember well. They think to themselves, “I’d better learn to chat/eat chocolate/drink/swear/drive like a maniac and flip the finger at people/sit for hours in front of the TV, because my daddy is the best in the world and I want to be just like my daddy!”
So now, I pay closer attention to what I do and squarely face my double standards. I can tell you it is not an easy thing to do, but it feels good. So far, I have put more vegetables in my food, reduced my intake of sweet things and added more exercise time into my week. I will deal with coffee later…
What about you?