Who hasn’t heard that phrase before? It’s one of those things we hear over and over, but I’m not sure how many people actually internalize it. I think the same can be said about the phrase, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Sometimes the two go hand in hand.
A parent who scolds their child for lying yet clearly tells lies in front of them doesn’t understand that actions speak louder than words. They are teaching their child by example that lying is acceptable. Parents who park in handicapped spaces teach their kids by example that you don’t need to abide by the rules, even though they may be telling their children otherwise. The same can be true for remembering your manners, swearing, how to treat people, procrastinating, eating habits, showing appreciation, how to respond to people, how to handle various situations, and SOOOOO many other things. Basically, what you say to your children has far less impact than what you do in front of them. If you make empty promises or threats and don’t follow through with a consequence or even finish counting to three when that’s what you said you were going to do, the child learns pretty quickly that you don’t mean what you say. That is a tough one to keep in the forefront of my mind because I want my kids to do the right thing and not have to give them a consequence, but in the long run, it sends the wrong message if I don’t follow through and makes things more challenging down the road. This one I have learned the hard way.
I have a relative who seems to think that as long as he tells someone he loves them at the end of a phone conversation (if someone happens to call him) or as he is hugging someone goodbye on the rare occasion he sees them in person, that’s enough. He doesn’t feel he needs to pick up a phone to call, spend much time with anyone face to face, or do anything else that would let that person know they are important to him. They should just know that he loves them because he tells them once in a while. My husband sort of has the same attitude (hmmm…I wonder how much of a coincidence that is), although I would say the way he has treated me is even worse. He doesn’t understand that you can’t tell someone you love them and at the same time not only put forth very little effort to show that person how much they mean to you but also completely disrespect them every chance you get, and yet still expect that person will still think so highly of you and love and respect you in return. His actions speak volumes more than his words.
So not only should you choose your words carefully, but you should be even more conscious of your choice of actions. And most importantly, the two should go hand in hand as much as possible. In other words, your actions need to back up your words. I find myself sometimes even explaining my actions to my kids so they will understand why I reacted a certain way for example, and hopefully they won’t get the impression that my actions and words are saying two different things. I feel at their age they still need a little help with interpreting things, but hopefully as they grow to be adults and on their own, they won’t need that guidance anymore. I wish I didn’t have so many examples of poor choices of behavior being set for them that I feel I need to address and that they could just learn by positive example. Hopefully, they are getting the message somehow that actions will always trump words.
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