Model the behavior you want to see. Time and again, Ted and I have come back to this as one of the cornerstone philosophies for how we parent. We learned long ago that lecturing—“do as I say”—really doesn’t stick. But kids do follow what their parents do. Model the behavior you want to see in your kids, and they pretty quickly start following your behavioral lead.
Of course, the primary reason Ted and I have to come back to this thinking is because we keep straying from it. Or, more accurately: We completely forget that our “cornerstone philosophy” even exists. We are abruptly reminded of it only when one of the kids acts like kind of a jerk. Then it starts niggling at the brain how that jerkiness seems awfully reminiscent of somebody, it’s just so familiar, who are they acting like—oh yeah. They’re acting like us.
Take Billup’s basketball game a couple of Saturdays ago. Ted coaches her rec basketball team, the Penguins. Because there are so many girls on the roster, he splits the Penguins into two teams, Gold and Blue, on game days. On this particular morning, Billup’s team, the Gold Penguins, were to play first, followed by the Blue team game.
Unfortunately, the team that Gold was playing turned out to be one that we remembered all too well—and none too fondly—from last season. We Penguins parents recalled their coaches as being a little too ruthless in their quest to win, their parents as being a little too raucous over every point scored. Not to mention, their team won handily every time we played them, which always proved to be both annoying and depressing.
Combine this semi-acrimonious history with a couple of lazy refs who didn’t bother calling any fouls, and what was supposed to be just another kids’ basketball game turned into a proxy death match between the parents. Every time a player scored, that team’s parents erupted into loud cheers, whooping, clapping and foot stomping. And every time a ref failed to call a travel, double dribble or foul, parents complained. Sometimes by yelling, sometimes by booing.
Naturally, as the coach’s wife and a model parent, I did not stoop to such crass competitiveness over an inconsequential game being played by 11- and 12-year-old girls.
…or that would be how this blog post would go, were another parent writing it.
In reality, Anne Burke, Model Parent, remained noticeably absent at that morning’s games. Anne Burke, Overcompetitive Suburban Crab and America’s Next Top Trashy Mom, on the other hand, came early, stayed late, and made her presence known throughout.
Long story short, the Gold Penguins got walloped. Things were starting to feel a little ugly.
Then followed the Blue team game. And things got ugly.
I’m happy to report that no fistfights occurred, either between parents or players. It didn’t get quite that bad. Nor I did get ejected from the game, so I think I deserve kudos for that. But… you could say my composure slipped slightly during the Blue Penguins’ game. Sometime in the third quarter, I found a ref’s call so unbearable that I leapt to my feet and bellowed my displeasure.
I can’t even begin to describe just how loud I was. I practically howled with fury. I was so loud and rude that it occurred to me as I sank back into my seat that the refs would be justified in throwing me out of the game.
Would this be a bad time to note that my child was not even playing in the game?
But it gets better. I was doing such a tremendous job of modeling the ideal spectator behavior that Boof also ended up shouting at a ref: “How can you make that call from half-court!? You didn’t even see what happened! That’s a horrible call!”
Yup. My 14-year-old son found it perfectly acceptable to yell at an adult.
And I was so caught up in the game that I didn’t see anything wrong with it, either. When another mom kindly suggested, “Boof, you don’t need to yell at the refs; just let the adults make fools of themselves,” I actually turned to her and said, “That’s OK. I really don’t mind him yelling.”
I am now considering the merits of the “Do as I say, not as I do” style of parenting. I think it’s got a lot of merit. Could even become a cornerstone parenting philosophy of mine.