Preach and practise

The next time your children don't listen to you, stop and think if you're preaching what you're practising

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
Robert Fulghum

My interpretation

Father with daughterRobert Fulghum, a famous author of essays on everyday nitty-gritties, has more than 16 million copies of his books in print, published in 27 languages in 103 countries. His essays, usually humorous, almost always contain a wise advice.

Here, Fulghum hits the nail on its head. He recognises that most parents lament that their children never obey them and he understands why.

In study after study, children have named their parents among the major role models in their lives. Statistics prove beyond doubt that the behaviour of children is directly affected by the behaviour of their parents. For instance, a child whose parents are addicted to alcohol is four times more likely to get addicted if he chooses to drink alcohol.

In his own experience as a parent, as well as observing other parents, Fulghum seems to have detected this greatest of ironies – parents don’t practise what they preach. When he says, “don’t worry that children never listen to you” he’s probably hinting how ineffective “telling” is, especially when children learn more by “observing”.

Kids are amazing imitators. In fact, that’s how they learn in the beginning – by imitating. If we want our children to behave in a certain way, we ought to show, rather than tell. If our own behaviour is not aligned with what we tell them, they spot the inconsistency with ease. Can we blame them for ignoring our “instructions” or “advice” when we ourselves do not follow them?

That’s why Fulghum warns us that our children are always watching us. If we want our children to inculcate good behaviour, then we ought to lead by example. If we want them to become self-reliant, confident and loving individuals, who treat themselves and others with respect and dignity, we must cultivate these traits in ourselves first. Our job will be much easier then, because children tend to emulate us. They are more likely to believe you when they see that you live by the values and principles that you preach.

Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri is a counseling therapist, a wellbeing consultant and a teacher of mindfulness. He is also a writer-editor and has written on topics ranging from strategic marketing and business management to art, culture and even philosophy. His more than 1500 published stories—articles, interviews, full-length features—have appeared in some of the leading newspapers and magazines of India. He is the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed self-improvement book based on powerful ideas of some of the greatest thought leaders. Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


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