By Alex Alexander
Genetics are only half of the game. The other half: upbringing. You learned about nature versus nurture in your high school psychology class.
Kids are a direct product of their environment, so what happens when parents continuously set bad examples and teach poor behaviors? The answer is simple. Monsters are created. They may be cute little monsters, but they’re monsters just the same.
Nasty behaviors fall across a spectrum and the wide range depends on a person’s tolerance. My husband, for example, gets overly disgusted when one of our children picks their nose. It’s one of the most offensive things on his list. Me? While I don’t find nose-picking endearing, it doesn’t set me off; likely because I’m a teacher.
This is why I’ve left behaviors off my list like butt scratching, nose-picking and farting. Those behaviors may be gross but they aren’t paramount to safety, social acceptance or a prosperous future, unlike the ten behaviors listed below.
It’s obvious. When a parent models nasty behaviors, their children will demonstrate nasty behaviors. Their nastiness will in turn rub off on my kid or your kid, and to be blatant, that’s something nobody wants. So, take note of this parenting advice for things you shouldn’t teach or do in front of your children.
- Promoting violence as a solution
I can observe more in a thirty-minute period at the grocery store than I can in one hour of Jerry Springer. A few weeks ago I overheard the most atrocious conversation. It was between a grandma and her seven or eight-year old grandson. She was instructing him to fight.
Granny’s words: “Next time, don’t wait to go tell the teacher. You just hit him right back. Show him you’re not gonna take his crap and then you’ll see that he leaves you alone.” Into the scene walks the young mom carrying a box of cereal. Granny reiterates to the boy’s mother what she instructed her grandson to do. The mother nods her head in agreement.
If a high school student jumps another high school student behind a building then yes, fighting back in self-defense is warranted. But teaching a seven-year old boy to fight back is simply ludicrous. I wanted to run my mouth but decided interjecting my opinion to these two ladies would likely leave me with a black eye and not the turkey and yogurt I had come for.
Unless self-defense is truly warranted, retaliation and physical violence isn’t a better solution than counting on the people in place to protect us. Could this little boy grow into a man who takes matters into his own hands instead of calling the police? Quite possibly. And could that land him in jail? Absolutely. And why? Because Granny and mom taught him to react to violence with more violence.
- Displaying poor sportsmanship
We’ve all seen the parent who lives vicariously through the talents of their child and therefore acts overly aggressive on the sidelines — blaming, screaming and cursing. Those parents are the first to say their child’s team lost because of XYZ, but certainly never because the opposing team was actually better.
At my daughter’s soccer game this past weekend, a mother from the opposing team yelled throughout the game, “Get her! Get her!” Seriously? Get my daughter? This isn’t the boxing ring — it’s soccer. Kids must learn to value putting forth their best, not being the best. If you forever place your child on a pedestal, they’ll forever be setup for failure.
- Disrespecting authority figures
While we’re on the topic of sports, whether it’s badgering the ref or being combative with the coach, if you’re undermining an authority figure in front of your child then you’re in the wrong. This goes for contradicting a teacher, too.
Kids must learn that everyone makes mistakes, including adults. It’s part of life. If you need to express an opinion, do it in a calm, respectful manner and not in front of your children. By belittling an authority figure in front of your child, you’re striping away any respect your child has for that person. This will make all future interactions more difficult for everyone.
- Driving like a maniac
Oh no, you did not just cross a double yellow line to pass me, with two kids sitting in the back of your car. Why yes, yes you did. And here I was already going seven miles over the speed limit. It’s time for some truth serum and l hope you take it before your children get licenses: It’s not OK to break the law and demonstrate road rage in front of your child.
- Cursing like a sailor
I don’t like it when I hear a kid say “crap.” Granny from the grocery and many other parents like her don’t see crap as a bad word. But remember, nasty behaviors fall on a spectrum. To most adults and likely all teachers, the word crap sounds foul coming out of the mouth of a babe.
If you keep your own cursing on the down low and censor television appropriately, your youngster will be less inclined to follow the shoes of your talking parrot.
- Taking advantage of other people’s mistakes
Although most parents won’t outwardly steal in front of their children, some do it knowingly at the cost of someone else’s mistake. How many times have you realized you haven’t been charged for something while standing at the register? Do you call attention to the mistake and use it as an opportunity to teach your children not to take advantage of another person’s error?
My own mother modeled this when I was growing up. She would go back to stores a week later to pay for things after realizing she wasn’t charged appropriately. If you want honest kids, exhibit honest behaviors.
- Being a mean girl
Why should you refrain from verbally bashing other people in front of your children? For starters, if they repeat it to someone they shouldn’t then you’re busted. But more importantly, by doing so you’re helping to create the person in high school we all hated the most.
- Texting while driving
When my daughter was six I caught her watching me text and drive. A fear began to linger that she would think texting and driving was safe. Not wanting to be responsible for her future death or the death of someone else at the hands of a cell phone, I vowed to stop texting and driving.
- Avoiding general life responsibility
Holding down a job is important. So is showing up. Taking care of your yard is important and so is repaying debt. Model how to be a productive citizen who cares about and takes care of the community. After all, it’s the community you’re leaving your grandchildren. If global responsibility isn’t transferred from ourselves to our children then our species will become no different than any other of the roaming mammals.
- Showing intolerance/apathy for those less fortunate
Leave out nasty comments when you pass a homeless person asking for money. Teach your kids to hold open doors, especially for the elderly and disabled. Help to break down prejudices and stigmas by not perpetuating them. Even if your life is hunky-dory right now, it doesn’t mean it will be forever. At some point in your life you’re going to find yourself counting on others to extend tolerance and empathy your way.
It’s true. We’re all going to blow it at some point. We already have. We’re human. It’s how the term “parenting fail” came to fruition.
But if we want to raise well-mannered, independent and respectable children, then as parents we must display and radiate those same qualities. At least most of the time. At least when they’re watching. Then at least we know we tried.