Dad, your children keep a watchful eye on you. We know, you’re not sure they acknowledge that you exist at times. They walk past you without speaking, and they hear you only when it’s in their best interests. Make no mistake—they are observing your behavior and hearing every word you utter.
Who do you admire?
They are also studying you to see who you emulate as your role model. We often talk about you in this column and hold you up as a role model for your kids. However, we seldom mention that most dads have their own role models. Your role model might be someone who wrote a book you are reading; a partner at work who is a genuinely good person; a golfing buddy whose opinion you highly regard; perhaps it’s your minister, doctor, mechanic, or the guy next door. Whoever your role model might be, your children know who you look up to and respect.
Who do you respect?
It stands to reason that your sons and daughters will look to your role models as their own role models. If you take seriously your stature as a role model for your children, they will consider those whom you respect as worthy recipients of their respect. It begs a few questions: Dad, do those people after whom you pattern your life deserve the admiration and respect of your children? Does your role model live according to values that you hope your children will assimilate? Does your role model use appropriate language and conduct himself or herself with dignity? Is your role model a person of high moral character?
Perhaps your dilemma, Dad, is one in which most of us find ourselves. It seems that it is difficult to find good role models today. We set them high on a pedestal only to have them topple over due to poor judgment and outright bad behavior. The only role model over whom you have complete control is yourself. You’re it, Dad. You!
Hypocrisy by any other name …
Alfred Adler, Austrian psychiatrist, once said, “It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.” Dad, you have to do both. Young people recognize hypocrisy. We all do. It runs rampant throughout society. If only people practiced what they preached. Children see and hear contradictory messages all the time, and they wonder if there is truly a right and a wrong. If your children hear you saying one thing and doing another, they will never forget it. It will be indelibly etched in their brain because they trust Dad to speak the truth.