modeling behaviors

5 Behaviors That Do More Damage Than You Think

On a long drive, my wife and I were talking in the front seat while the kids were busy in the back watching videos and listening to music. When I glanced in the mirror, I noticed that my son was wearing his headphones with one speaker over one of his ears—which meant he could probably hear us out of his other. After asking him a couple quick questions, I realized I was right. He had been listening to all of our conversations.

This was a good learning experience for me. It helped me realize that as dads, we are always being watched and need to be modeling behaviors that are good and right. Our behaviors and attitudes, no matter how small or insignificant we may think they are, will always be on display with our kids. We need to be conscious of that fact and diligent in our behavior so we don’t unknowingly set a bad example. Here are 5 behaviors that do more damage than you think.

1. Criticizing Coaches and Teachers

For my son to learn, he needs to be able to trust and believe in the people instructing him. When he hears me criticize, it reduces the adult’s credibility in my son’s eyes and keeps him from reaching his potential. I also don’t want him to grow up being critical of others.

2. Rolling Through Stop Signs

Last week, my son got his learner’s permit for driving. A few days later, he was sitting in the passenger seat when I rolled through a stop sign. “Dad, you didn’t come to a complete stop,” he said. I quickly replied with a list of all the reasons it was OK—there was no one coming, it’s easier on the car, I have lots of experience driving. But after thinking about it, I realized that the main message I was sending him was the one I didn’t say: that it’s OK to break the rules. If we want our kids to follow the rules, we have to follow the rules too.

3. Late Night Snacking

I’m generally a pretty healthy guy, but I have a weakness for certain types of snacks, and my willpower tends to break down about the time my kids are headed to bed. This is a problem for a few reasons. First, it models poor nutrition. It also shows that there is a double standard, because they know they aren’t allowed to have late-night snacks. But the most significant issue is that it shows my kids that it’s OK to give in to every urge. Self-control is extremely important but lacking in our society, and this is an area where I need to step it up.

4. Saying “I don’t like that guy!”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” Most of the time, when we say we don’t like someone, it’s because there is something about him or her that we don’t like. But the person generally isn’t a bad person. When my kids hear me say this, I’m sending them the message that it’s appropriate to make quick judgments about others. But it isn’t, and modeling behaviors like this will be detrimental to their relationships. So I shouldn’t make casual comments judging others.

5. Telling White Lies

Recently, I was talking to a friend who asked if I wanted to join him in an upcoming activity. I told him I had plans that day. Later, my son asked what my plans were, and I told him that I just said that as an excuse not to join the friend on that day. I simply could have told my friend that I had been busy lately and wanted to spend that day at home with my family. Instead, I was dishonest, and I unfortunately showed my son that dishonesty is an option in some situations (and it shouldn’t be).

Sound off: How do you think modeling behaviors like this impacts kids?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things you’ve seen me do that you shouldn’t imitate?”