Advice Column, Parenting

Living Out Loud: Teaching Children Through Words and Actions

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One day when my son was about 8, we were driving into town to pick up some supplies at a hardware store.  I was rushed for time because the store was about to close.  As I rolled through a stop sign, my son asked me, “Dad, weren’t you supposed to stop at that sign back there?”  I explained to him that we had less than 15 minutes to get to the store before it closed, and I needed to purchase parts for a broken appliance at home.  He didn’t care about my reason for failing to come to a full stop.  Instead, he said, “How am I supposed to learn how to be good driver from you, Dad?”  I remember this incident all too well.  It stayed with me because it was a turning point in understanding even more strongly how important my role as a father was and how crucial my actions and words were for his growth into a responsible young man.

It’s not too late to change our habits and teach our children wonderful life skills they will retain and use over time.  I’m talking about things we can say and do that will instruct children about limits and rules by demonstrating our own for them to see and hear.  Remember, you are a living, breathing role model for your kids.  Demonstrate your own boundaries as learning tools for your children.

Here are 6 ways of teaching children limits and boundaries by “Living Out Loud”; what to say and do in front of the kids.

  1. When you’re ready to stop watching television and your children are nearby, say out loud, “That’s all the TV I need to watch for now.”
  2. If you realize that you need to stop one activity in favor of another, say: “Mom has to stop making dinner and go put in a load of laundry.”
  3. If someone hurts you, say: “I don’t like it when you do that, it hurts me!”
  4. If the phone is ringing and you don’t want to answer it, you could say: “I don’t feel like talking on the phone right now because I want to spend time with you.”
  5. Set your alarm clock for the kids to see and tell them, “I need this clock to ring so I will know when sleep time is over and it’s time to start my day.”
  6. When you’re serving food, say: “I’m going to try a little bit of everything mommy made for dinner, but not too much.”

Living out Loud” can also be useful for teaching children about rules for life. While out with our grandchildren one day, we were about to get into the car and I opened the car door for my wife.  When I got into the car, I turned to my granddaughter and said, “Here’s one of grandpa’s rules of life… a polite man always opens the door for a lady so she can get into the car first.”  I look for frequent opportunities that become teaching moments and ask them, “Can I tell you another one of grandpa’s rules of life?”  I normally get their confirmation and then proceed to relate a nugget of valuable information.  I don’t belabor it; just simply give them a bit of information.  Then, when they’re adults and I’m gone from this world, I hope their children will hear them say, “Your grandpa used to say…”

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