How many times have parents heard their kids say, “It’s not fair!” How many times have older kids called their parents, “Hypocrite?” How many times were the kids right?
My older son called me a hypocrite the other day because I was making disturbing noises early one morning, while he and his brother were still sleeping. Important noises like singing silly ditties to my dogs. It was not the least bit different from my asking my sons to stop their particular “disturbing noises” when I’m trying to concentrate on work at home. My son was right. It was hypocritical, though a bit dramatic to label me a “Hypocrite.”
It made me think of how often parents do the “Do as I say (not as I do)” speech with their offspring. That sort of hypocrisy may work when the children are young, but it sure won’t work on teenagers who are mostly looking at parents as fools at that stage of life.
Mark Twain said it best, in describing the brilliance of teenagers and the stupidity of his father, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” I sure felt that way about my parents when I was a teenager. As my sons are both teenagers now, I get double the derision.
Rather than continue in this “I’m the dad-martyr” role, I want to focus on what parents can learn from their teens and what parents should do for their teens. It’s simple. Live and model the life you want them to live. They will see everything you do so if you don’t want to be accused of hypocrisy, walk the walk and talk the talk. Doing anything else not only makes you seem like a hypocrite but also creates distrust in your children. I’m guilty of this, at times, but I’m aware of this occasional lapse in my ideal parental behavior and try hard to avoid the “Double standard.”
There are so many classic examples of parents and their “Double standard:”
- Smoking while decrying the dangers of tobacco.
- Drinking to excess ANY TIME in front of the kids while exclaiming the danger of drinking or drinking and driving.
- Sneaking that bit of marijuana thinking the children won’t see, while singing about its dangers (or any drug). Don’t you think they notice when their parents are “high?”
- My favorite parental hypocrisy is making kids wear helmets while mom and/or dad don’t. I see this so often while skiing that I can’t help but lecture those foolish parents and end up feeling like I’m the “Helmet police.” Most parents see their folly and claim they’ll repent, while others can be quite rude. I don’t care when those parents react that way because I hope my message sticks at a later time plus no one would ever accuse me of being shy!
- Yelling at a spouse or the kids.
Get the drift? Don’t be that parent that says one thing and does another! Model the behavior you demand of them? That is my simple point. Upon entering parenthood, the presumption is that teenage behavior is over. Upon entering parenthood, the presumption is that adulthood has begun.
I know that is a big presumption and it wasn’t stated to be funny. I still want to be a kid and my wife regularly reminds me of the fact that I haven’t grown up. I can’t act like a kid and be a good dad. Her reminder may be irritating, but it’s true. My boys see everything I do. And, when I see my poor behavior acted out by them, I have only myself to blame!
And this latter point is the price parents pay for living and modeling a double standard. I see my stubbornness, occasional flaring temper, talking back, and numerous other character traits I’d rather not acknowledge regularly displayed by my boys.
Happily, I also see kindness, concern for others, charity, a sense of humor, love for my wife (their step-mom), great taste in music, food, movies, and wine…I mean soda, and much more reflected in my kid’s daily behavior.
Naturally, I take great pride in the good things they mimic from me and tell my sons I’m proud of that behavior. The bad things they mimic of mine, I blame on the dogs.
No parent is perfect — even this dad writer. But, we all can strive to model the best behavior we can for our kids. I might add, this also applies to our spouses. Treating one’s spouse lovingly will likely reap long-term rewards and equal treatment in return. So, it becomes a double-win in that husband or wife will hopefully reciprocate while Jack and Jill will observe a loving marriage. Isn’t this a classic win-win situation?