“Your kids… They don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
“Attitudes are caught, not taught.”
Fiona Apple once admitted that she doesn’t want kids, but she spends a lot of time buying and reading parenting books. The interviewer said, “So you’re the parent and the child.” Apple replied, “Well, I mean, you always have to be.”
Every time I read a piece like Pamela Paul’s “Let Children Get Bored Again,” I want to cross out the word “children” and write “us.”
children us get bored again.
children us play.
children us go outside.
The problem with parenting tips is that the best way to help your children become the kind of person you want them to be is by surrounding them with the kinds of people you want them to be. This includes you.
You can’t tell kids anything. Kids want to be like adults. They want to do what the adults are doing. You have to let them see adults behaving like the whole, human beings you’d like them to be.
If we want to raise whole human beings, we have to become whole human beings ourselves.
This is the really, really hard work.
Want your kids to read more? Let them see you reading every day.
Want your kids to practice an instrument? Let them see you practicing an instrument.
Want your kids to spend more time outside? Let them see you without your phone.
There’s no guarantee that your kids will copy your modeling, but they’ll get a glimpse of an engaged human. As my twitter pal, Lori Pickert, author of Project-Based Homeschooling, tweeted a few years ago:
parents keep trying to push their kids toward certain interests when it works so much better to just dig into those interests yourself
oh, wait .. those aren’t YOUR interests? so you don’t want to dig into them? they aren’t your child’s interests either; why would THEY?
joyfully dig into your own interests and share all the ensuing wins, frustrations, struggles, successes
let your kids love what they love
when you share your learning and doing, you don’t make them also love (whatever); you DO show them how great it is to do meaningful work
If you spend more time in your life doing the things that you love and that you feel are worthwhile, the kids in your life will get hip to what that looks like.
“If adults can show what they love in front of kids, there’ll be some child who says, ‘I’d like to be like that!’ or ‘I’d like to do that!’” said Fred Rogers. He told a story about a sculptor in a nursery school he was working in when he was getting his master’s degree in child development:
There was a man who would come every week to sculpt in front of the kids. The director said, “I don’t want you to teach sculpting, I want you to do what you do and love it in front of the children.” During that year, clay was never used more imaginatively, before or after…. A great gift of any adult to a child, it seems to me, is to love what you do in front of the child. I mean, if you love to bicycle, if you love to repair things, do that in front of the children. Let them catch the attitude that that’s fun. Because you know, attitudes are caught, not taught.”
It’s like a Show Your Work! lesson for parenting: Show the kids in your life the work that you love.