Do as I say, not as i do;a recipe for desaster

For the first 13 years of my daughter’s life I told her all the things a parent should to teach a child right from wrong and to be a happy and productive member of society. What I didn’t realize is that what I taught her through my actions was something completely different.
When my daughter was young I always told her that it wasn’t nice to call people names. Something that most people teach their children. Yet while driving in the car, if another driver say, cut me off, without thinking, I would say “What a _____!”
One day when my daughter was about five. We were in my mother’s car when she was cut off. My daughter turned to my mother and matter-of-factually said, “Gee grandma, he was a real _____ wasn’t he.” This earned me the ‘look’ from my mother while I was trying my best not to laugh.
You would think that an intelligent, well educated man would have realized at that point the saying ‘Led by deeds, not by words’ wasn’t something some writer just made up. Well I didn’t and over the next eight years I continued to say all the right things to my child while teaching her all of my shortcomings by example.
To name a few, without realizing I taught my daughter how to manipulate people with a smile, an unhealthy lack of respect of the law, and in general that it was ok to do what ever you wanted as long as your actions didn’t ‘REALLY’ hurt anyone else. Just small things like when my daughter would say, “Daddy, you’re speeding.” My reply would be something like, “It’s ok to go a little over the limit.” It seems like such a small thing, but what was the lesson I was really teaching.
Between the ages of 15 – 17 my daughter was sent to the juvenile detention three times for going exactly what I taught her. Proof that we learn more by example than any other method as my daughter truly learned her lessons from me well.
I guess my point is, that as parents we must always remember that we shape our children’s lives not so much by what we tell them but by how we live our own lives. Our every action creates their reality and shapes their perception of the world. I believe the best thing we can do for our own children is for us to live correctly in order to be a good example for our children through every aspect of our lives. That is the only way to ensure that the lessons we teach are the right ones.
My daughter is now 19 and has stayed out of trouble for the last year and a half. We are both continuing to work hard at turning our lives around. I hope that she has learned from my mistakes and when the time comes she will be a better teacher to her children than I was to mine.
Joe

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