My mom came in and inspected my work. After a long stare she told me, “Oh, no. Uh, uh. This is not done…” I looked in the sink. Empty. I looked at the drying dishes. Not a speck of fried egg nor a spot of dried milk.
“The counter has not been wiped off,” she told me. “Look at these crumbs. When you wash dishes, part of the job is wiping down the counter.”
Now, I was smart enough not to argue with my mom, but deep in my heart I knew she was wrong. She scurried out of the kitchen, and I grumbled under my breath, “Who does she think she is, telling me that wiping a counter is part of washing the dishes? I may be young, but I’m not stupid. Dishes are dishes. A counter’s a counter. If she wanted me to wipe down the counter, all she had to do was ask. I’d be glad to do it,” I lied to myself.
“Who in their right mind thinks wiping a counter has anything to do with cleaning a soup bowl? When I’m a father and I ask my kids to wash the dishes, there’s no way in Hades I will expect them to wipe down the counter!”
Cut to twenty-five years later. I’m a full-grown man, married, got kids of my own and even a house, but still no dishwasher. I remember walking into the kitchen one day and someone had washed the dishes, yet there were cookie crumbs on the counter.
How could I stop them? Like a volcano, the words forced their way out into the cold air of my dishwasherless kitchen before I could stop them: “Who washed these dishes and didn’t wipe down the counter?! When you wash dishes, part of the job is wiping down the counter!”
Oh my God, I’d become my mother!
That’s the thing about being a parent. There’s a very good chance that our children will become us to some extent when they grow up. That puts a lot of responsibility on parents. We can tell our children the right things to do. We can say to them what’s expected, but what really counts is what we do.
On Valentine’s Day we want to show our children that we love them. The best way to do that is by giving them the tools they need to be happy and successful adults.
Our children will become us, so we need to be the people we want them to grow up to be.
Here are seven ways to model the behavior you want your children to embody this Valentine’s Day:
1. Be Honest
We’re always telling our kids to be honest, not to cheat, to tell the truth and not to steal. But, if we are bringing home office supplies from work, calling in sick when we are well, and taking that extra change the store clerk mistakenly hands us, our children are guaranteed to do the same. So, show them honest living so they will embody it.
2. Find Your Passion
We parents often give up on our dreams once we have our children. It’s important that we pursue our passions, and let our kids see this. So, take up photography, start a blog, sign up for a half-marathon. When our kids see that we are following our dreams, they will start to follow theirs.
The reason that only 8% of adults who set New Year’s resolutions keep them is because when we fall off the wagon, we rarely hop back on. And, when our children see that we don’t push through when we stumble or are met with an obstacle, they believe that’s the way adults handle difficulties. So, when they drop the proverbial ball, our children will not pick it back up… that is, unless they see us doing it first.
4. Love Your Partner
Over half of marriages end in divorce. So, that means that over half the children are exposed to divorce. As a result, the cycle continues. To ensure that your child has a long-lasting, committed, loving relationship of their own one day, we parents must dedicate time to our relationships. That may mean losing some “kid time,” but that loss will be made up exponentially. So, kiss your spouse. Hold hands. Schedule date nights.
5. Work Hard
We expect our kids to study their flashcards for school, practice their piano thirty minutes a night, and run laps for basketball conditioning. Then, we say we are going to lose ten pounds or quit smoking, yet refuse to work at it. If our children hear us say working hard is important, but see us sitting on the sofa watching Dancing With The Stars and taking the easy way out, they will follow our actions, not our words. Therefore, we need to model a good work ethic to ensure our children have one.
6. Give Back
When I was growing up, we didn’t have much, so I learned how to hoard money, in case I needed it later. As an adult, I am better off financially than my family was when I was a child, yet I still have that hoarding mentality and must consciously tell myself I can afford donating to a school fundraiser or sponsor a co-worker running for breast cancer. I never want my daughters to have to struggle with this inner battle when they are grown-ups. If you would like your children to give back, model it for them. Donate to a charity or hand some change to someone who may be in need. If you are strapped financially, consider volunteering your time regularly at church, a soup kitchen, hospital or some other organization you are passionate about.
7. Avoid Excuses
When we voice that we are unable to reach our goals because we don’t have the education, or the finances, or are single parents, we are handing our children the words they will use as excuses as to why they can’t succeed in school, or in sports, or relationships, or on stage. As parents, we don’t have to hide our challenges and obstacles, but by showing our children how we persevere through them, instead of sitting back, we model how they can handle the obstacles that life will put into their paths.
If you want to take your kid out to ice cream this February 14th, or give her some Hershey’s Kisses, to express your love, by all means go for it. But, if you want to express your love all year long, and give them a gift that will last a lifetime, model the behavior you want theme to embody. That’s the kind of gift that lasts even after the others have melted.