This is a continuation from one of last week’s posts about good behavior to model for your teenager. That post covered the importance of modeling faith in God, financial responsibility and humility. This week let’s tackle 3 more: integrity, compassion and physical health.
1. Integrity: This means you are the same person in the light as you are in the dark. When nobody is watching your behavior is the same as it is when everyone is watching. If you own your own business, do you declare all your income, even your cash? If you tell your children they cannot be sexually active outside marriage, are you sexually active outside marriage? Over time your teenagers can tell whether you are hypocritical when you can get away with it. They follow your example. If you exhibit and value integrity, they will too.
2. Compassion: This is a really tough one. We live in a world where we are constantly told to teach toughness. We are told to teach boundaries that we do not allow others to cross. We are told to stand firm in our beliefs without compromise. In this generation of hardness, how do we model compassion? I think we show our teenagers that we know what we believe and that we personally do not compromise to fit in. However, we have grace and understanding for others who choose differently. When others are hurting we show kindness and concern even when it is clearly their fault. We still show our teenagers that anger is okay, but what we do with it is what’s important.
3. Physical Health: Your adolescents and younger children will develop the habits you live by. If you spend your spare time in front of a screen, they will too. If you eat tons of junk food, they will too. This lifestyle is truly developed by osmosis. Get active, eat right and visit the doctor at recommended intervals. Your children will learn this from you. Be careful not to express constant concern that you are sick too. Some of you worry all the time that you are sick with something serious, or will catch that next cold. You create a paranoia in your children. It’s miserable to live with incessant fear. If you are careful with your diet, try not to make it a “sin” issue. In other words, if your family eats healthy please don’t get upset when your child has soda at a friend’s house. Try not to comment on what everyone else is eating either. Just live by a good example and you’ll see, your children will pick up a lot of your habits.
Like I said last week, don’t get down on yourself if you’re not the best example to your kids all the time. None of us are. I struggle with some of these things as much as the next person. I particularly struggle with the integrity of eating as healthily as I require my children to eat. When they’re not looking I often sneak that extra piece of chocolate. However, they will catch on to this, and it won’t be good for them to learn sneaky behavior. I’m telling you this because I understand how difficult it is to model the adult we hope our children become.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT