What are you teaching?

A popular television show is about modeling. They attempt to show you what would really make you be in style and even how to show off what you are wearing by just watching the show.

But the most important modeling is that which you do for your children. No matter whether you are modeling for your baby or your teenager, you need to be well aware that you are setting the standard for what they should try to do and to be. You want to make sure it is what you want.

Probably the first time you might be aware that you are modeling behavior your child will follow is when you give a simple smile. It won't be long before your baby gives you one back. You showed him how to do it and were delighted when he gave you one in return so you not only modeled it, you also rewarded him for what he did.

Other kinds of modeling might not be as helpful. When he hears you not telling the truth on the telephone you are modeling a different kind of behavior but still one he is likely to follow. When he sees you argue with your partner, he is learning. When you break the law by speeding or going through a stop sign he is learning about how to drive.

When he does something wrong and you scream at him or spank or hit him, he is learning about how to handle his anger. When you tell him that if does something he will be in trouble and then you don't do anything, he is learning to not trust you. When you smoke, over indulge in alcohol or use illegal drugs, he is learning that those are things that he can do, too.

Model the behavior you want from him. If you want him to be polite, you be polite. If you want him to treat his little sister right, treat him right. If you want him to learn to control his temper, model that for him. Let your children see you do things that need to be done, pitch in to help others finish their tasks, and take the blame when you make an error. Children learn what they live with.

You need to remember you are his first and most important teacher. Teach him what you really want him to learn.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and now director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers, and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.

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