By: Tricia Cornell
The sound of it stopped me right in my tracks: A harsh, “Cut that out! That is not okay!” It almost sounded like she was snarling. Where had my daughter learned to talk like that to her little brother? It sounded so terrible coming from such a sweet little kid. And where had I heard that sound before? Oh, no. I knew exactly where I had heard that before, and where my daughter had gotten it. Straight from my own mouth. Did I really sound like that? Oof, sometimes I did.
That was not the way I wanted my kids to talk to other people. And it wasn’t the way I wanted to talk to them. But I had to hear it from my own daughter to recognize my own behavior. It was just like having a mirror held up to my face during my ugliest moment.
We’ve all got behaviors we’re not proud of. I’ve got a short temper. I’m a chronic procrastinator. And I’ve been known to sneak ever-growing slivers of brownies out of the pan, once it’s been left on the counter. Disliking those behaviors in myself makes it all the more painful when I see glimpses of them in my kids.
Since my adolescent plan to have fully banished all bad behavior by age 25 and emerge into adulthood as a near-perfect human being who never eats an extra brownie or puts off work until the last minute didn’t pan out, I’m in the sticky position of trying to raise kids who are better than me. And I’m guessing I’m not alone.
Beyond bad habits, some of us have struggled with addictions to smoking, drinking, gambling, eating, whatever. Some of us took some pretty big risks as teenagers and young adults. Some of us have a poor body image or low self-esteem. In fact, if there’s anybody out there who doesn’t fit into one of those categories, I’d really like to meet you. And yet, as parents, I think most of us are working hard to raise that mythical person.
While perfection should never be a goal, here are some thoughts as we all work toward raising the next generation to be just a little bit better than we are.
If you’ve got teens and tweens who are confronting tough choices, like friends starting to drink and smoke and be sexually active, they’re probably going to ask you about your own adolescence. Be upfront without going into too much detail. And then talk with your kids about the expectations they have for their own behavior and how you can support that. Make it clear that your household has rules and “But you did it, Dad!” will never be accepted as an excuse.
Lady in Mirror Image via Cea. on Flick'r.