As parents, we want what's best for our children. We want them to live a better life than we may have had the opportunity to live. Now, I don't want to generalize this article to cover every parent and every type of parenting situation. Each of us goes through our parenting journey experiencing different circumstances.
However, no matter what your situation is, your kids will learn more from what you do--not what you say. Children are intuitive and pick up on what things we don't even realize. When I was stuck in a job I hated for 12 years, my kids noticed and picked up on the full range of emotions I went through.
After four years of hard work, failure, and pushing beyond my comfort zone, I was able to quit that job. I'm now living my dream life. My kids immediately noticed the difference in me and commented about the change more than a few times. I now have the freedom and flexibility to be there in the way that they need me. It took too long to realize these five things children will learn by example--not words.
1. You don't have to settle for a job you hate. Work is a large portion of each parent's life. That time could be spent doing work you enjoy and that fulfills you, but too many parents are stuck in jobs they hate. When you spend 40 plus hours-a-week miserable, your children will pick up on what you're putting out. It's subconsciously teaching them that work is bad or that they will probably be stuck in work they dislike--that doesn't have to be the case.
You invest too much of your week working; it should be spent doing work that supports the kind of life you want to live. If that's not your job, do something about it. It's not going to be easy to find or create work you love, but it can never happen if you don't even try. It may take years to make that change, but it will be worth the struggle once you reach your goal.
2. Your health is important. When you tell your kids to eat their vegetables or play outside, it will fall on deaf ears if you aren't committed to being healthy. When you set the example, your kids will begin to understand and it will help them develop healthy habits that they'll implement in their life. They'll remember how mom and dad lived, and how happy it made them--they will follow suit. Your health affects every other area of your life; it's important to make smart choices and form healthy habits.
3. Negative people are toxic. The company you keep in your life not only affects your kids, but it also teaches them who they should hang out with when they're older. When there are negative/toxic people in your life, it holds you back, and your kids see that. You can tell them to hang out with positive and good friends, but they will have already learned. Keep positive and ambitious people in your life so that it pushes you and your kids by extension.
4. Never give up on your dreams. You can tell your kids to chase all the dreams in their heart, but they won't understand if it's clear you've given up on yours. You may not be living your dream life, but if you're working on whatever that means for you, your kids will understand. They won't give up on their dreams because you taught them by example that they shouldn't.
5. Each moment you're alive is precious. Life has never felt so precious to me as it does today. I'm writing this article from a hotel room in Tel Aviv, Israel. I just got here from spending some time in Paris, France. I had left Paris 20 hours before the terrorist attacks happened there. My heart breaks for friends and the amazing people I met. None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow--all we have us today. Your kids won't understand that if you're not living life that way yourself. It's important to teach your children about planning for the future, but that shouldn't come at the cost of not living today.
These are complicated subjects, and again, each of our circumstances is different. However, it's important to get honest with yourself--only you know what you want your kids to learn from your example. The good news is that if you're reading this, you have the chance to do something about it one way or another. Don't settle for less than you deserve because your kids will pick up on that and that could lead to them living life the same way.
What are your kids learning from your example?
Photo Credit: Flickr/ Alec Couros