Friday, February 1, 2008

10 Rules for being a Role Model as a Parent

I've talked a little about this before, but the importance can't be overlooked. In a society where we are exposed to 3000 commercials a day, where textbooks are increasingly being produced by corporations, where the American Dream is a consumer-driven fantasy put into our minds by and nurtured by commercial interests, our role as exemplar for our children is as important as ever. Not only that, but as role models, we are constantly being watched. Our children never look away from how we act, what we say, or who we are. Here are some things to keep in mind and keep us focused on the most important role of our lives. Though you probably adhere to (most of) them already, there are plenty of dads out there who forget them all the time.

1. Be Polite
I never saw--not even once--my dad be rude to a waiter or waitress. No matter how bad the food got, how long the wait, how rude the wait staff was, or if the table next to us got their food before we did even though they got there later, he never ever lost his temper. I never thought anything of it, honestly, until I was out to dinner with a friend and saw his dad blow his top left and right at the poor little girl waiting on us. When I talked to my friend about it, he said, "Oh yeah, he does that all the time. But we do get really bad service all the time, too." But the service wasn't bad. Not at all. This friend of mine had a skewed idea of what service was supposed to be because his dad constantly chose to be a jackass in front of the world. I could never see taking a waiter or waitress to task in front of my kids (or any other time really). This goes for just about every other relationship you have with people in public, especially in font of your kids.

2. Be clean
This one is really hard for me. I am going to have a hard time convincing my kids to clean their room when my room is piled with baskets of laundry that still need to be put away. I've always had issues with being able to keep things clean. But if you take a trip to my parent's house, you'll probably see why. Most of the time it's not ready for visitors, either. While I'm trying to get better, there is one thing I've managed to do: be sanitary. If things aren't always tidy and put away, things are at least clean. I never wear dirty clothes, even if I do pull them out of a pile in the morning.

3. Be compassionate
It's important for us to show our kids that there are more people in the world than just us. While I do put my family first, it's important to show our kids that we don't live in a vacuum. Every couple months, we cull our clothes and the toys in our house. If there are clothes that we haven't worn in those two months and toys that they just don't play with, we pick them up and donate them. It decreases clutter, and it helps others out.

4. Be curious and support curiosity
The Constructivist teaching philosophy tells us that learning doesn't work like a one-way street. The enlightened no longer think of a classroom as a place where one person preaches the gospel and the students sit and absorb it like a sponge. Instead we see teacher and student at co-learners, approaching subjects together and creating meaning out of them. The same is true for your relationships to your kids. Show them that it's okay to wonder about things and encourage them to wonder. If they want to know what creates the wind, first ask them what they think is the cause. And, if you don't know, don't try to get off easy; look it up and explain it as best you can.

5. Don't be violent
Don't show your kids that violence is an option. Yes, there are wars in the world. Try your best to explain wars in the best way you know how. Maybe they're not the best way to go about things, but there are underlying intentions that can be explained. But it should never, ever, be an option in your household to resort to violence. You don't get physical with your spouse, ever. It's not fair, it's not cool, and it's criminal. And trust me, your kids will go on to repeat the same things.

6. Don't be a Drunk
There's no reason to give tacit approval to drunkenness. Even if it's something that you saw your dad doing, there's no reason to pass that on. Don't let them think it's okay to put your guard down and accept loss of your judgment. And never, ever, use "I was drunk" as an excuse for something. That brings us to:

7. Accept Responsibility
Don't let your kids see you making excuses. If you say or do something and it was wrong, fess up. Be a stand-up person. Life can be hard and we can all be wrong. Being wrong, your kids should see, isn't a fault. But accepting responsibility and learning from your mistake is the highest attribute.

8. Don't place blame
Nothing good comes out of pointing out who's fault it was that the dryer didn't turn on, or that you were late to the movie, or that the lid wasn't on the salt. Don't show them a petty way to belittle family members by nit-picking who-did-what-when. Deal with it like a leader.

9. Read
If you read to your kids, that's great. You should do it every day. If your kids see you pick up a book and read for your own pleasure, that's great, too. They should see that reading is an engaging activity all by itself. If you don't read now, pick up a book and start. Become a reader and ever facet of your life will be improved. If you don' know what to read, I have some good suggestions.

10. Have fun
I know plenty of grown people who don't know how to have fun. Even worse, I know lots of kids who take things too seriously to have fun. Show your kids that having fun is good. Show them different ways to have fun every day of your life. It's an important skill that has to be practiced.

All of these are great. Some of them are easier than others for me. I have it easy, though. When in doubt, I think "What would my dad do?" With any luck, my kids will be able to think the same thing when they are parents.


Barbara said...

It's good to write down your priorities. I agree particularly with your points about being polite and respectful. I remember thinking you could decide whether you wanted to go on a date with a guy based on how he treated the waitress or cashier at the movies, etc.

Tyler @ Building Camelot said...

Nice list. This is a very practical list that all guys should be able to understand.