By Donna Howard
For the Journal
â€śMom, you didnâ€™t stop at that stop sign.â€ť
â€śMom, the speed limit is only 50.â€ť
â€śMom, you donâ€™t let me do that.â€ť
I know. I should be a good example to my children. For the most part, I really try to be. But sometimes itâ€™s not at the front of my mind.
Itâ€™s not like I am robbing stores or committing fraud across state lines. I certainly donâ€™t drive off without paying for my gas, and I donâ€™t drive drunk. In fact, I donâ€™t even drink.
But perhaps I need to remember that I am an example to my children – all of the time. Sometimes I might be a good example, but on occasion I probably could use a little reminder that I am always being watched.
As parents, we are constantly keeping an eye on our children. We listen for unfamiliar noises. We tune into arguments, but once we know what itâ€™s about, sometimes we then tune them out. We check to be sure they are still doing their chores and that they arrive home from school on time. We want to know if they are wearing clean clothes and brush their teeth and do their homework.
Children are amazingly adept at watching us, too. I think every one of my children has checked my speedometer and watched to see if I made a complete stop at stop signs. They want to see what I will do when the clerk hands me too much change. And they notice how I treat the employee at the dry cleaners.
We can talk all we want about behaving appropriately. But our actions speak much louder than all of our sermons and admonitions put together. It really doesnâ€™t matter what we say to our children about integrity and proper behavior. We can wax eloquent about the dangers of lying. We can even talk about people that have chosen to live on the wrong side of the law.
But if we are pushing the boundaries ourselves, why are we so surprised when our children test their own fences? When we see how fast we can go without getting a ticket, why do we get angry when our teen does the same thing? And when our children are disrespectful to us, is it because we were rude to the drug store cashier? Do they consider that to be acceptable behavior?
I hope not. Because if they do, I know who is to blame.
Donna Howard has ten children, has had foster children, runs a business, is a musician and composer and teaches adjunct at BYU-Idaho. She can be reached at email@example.com.