Sunday, September 19, 2010

Do As I Do, Not As I SAY

We tell our children to be nice, play with others, be gentle, take turns, etc. but the truth is many adults don't follow these "rules."  I don't know how we keep up the expectations of good manners, when they seem to be the "exception" and not the "rule" these days.

The truth is we just don't live in an altruistic world.  People seem to be out for themselves and for some, if that happens to come at the expense of others it's considered acceptable.  To start, we don't speak to each other with respect.  E-mail or texting makes us brave and say things we might otherwise bite our tongue about.  Perhaps its the degradation of the human conversation. 

We don't get much practice anymore.  We speak primarily through third party mediums, like e-mail, texts, and social media sites that require that we be brief, casual, and one-minded.  We "speak" with only "us" in mind.  There is little expectation of the listener at all.  So without an "audience" to all our "talking" we are really just speaking to hear ourselves talk.

The adage for parents used to be "do as I say, not as I do."  The expectation is that children can't for many safety and practical purposes do what adults do.  They can't, as my daughter has been trying with fervor these days, help me cook.  There are too many "what if" factors that make the risk totally unworthy of any reward she may feel in "helping mommy."  So she gets to help mommy empty the dishwasher or hand me hangers or clothes pins while I'm doing the laundry instead.  But the desire to do that which she is not allowed seems ever more interesting to her.

Becoming a mom means many things, but once you hit the toddler years it becomes clear you are a role model.  The first time you hear your accidental slipped out bad word come out the mouth of your innocent toddler, you know it.  You are now aware that there are eager eyes upon you all the time, looking to YOU - the be all and end all of role models - MOM.  So here it is, we want our children to listen to us, but we are rearing our children during an age where "REAL" conversation is becoming more and more rare.  How do we teach them the importance of "listening" when we don't stop to listen to each other?

I guess the time has come to revise the old adage to: "Do as I do, not as I say."   I'm a true lover of words, so this is going to be hard for me; to rely on my actions to speak for me, to listen rather than to speak.  I think the next time Hannah interrupts a conversation I'm having with my husband or mother I will try hard not to get frustrated and tell her to wait her turn.  She should know how important she is to me and although I tell her all the time, at least once in a while she should get the floor and someone else will have to get asked to wait a minute.  After all a minute does feel like an eternity to a toddler. 

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