Teaching By Example

I watched a video yesterday on Facebook about a man teaching a baby wolf how to howl.


It made me think about how I’ve tried to raise my two children. I believe they learn by example – my example. Granted, I don’t want my children to become my clones. Having two Patti’s running around the house would not be fun.

I’ve tried to instill in them a sense of individuality over the years, telling the two of them they’re each different and that’s a good thing, and to be themselves.

But then, if they manifest behavior that is the opposite of what I’ve been teaching them, is it my fault?

My opinion is no, it’s not.

I don’t believe a child is born with a brain that’s a “tabula rasa” – a clean slate. They’re born with genes that help make them who they ultimately come to be. I can preach unselfishness and kindness and strength of character and honesty. However, they’ll grow up manifesting some of those traits and dispensing with others.

And  I have to accept that I can only do so much and then I have to “let ’em go” and see what happens.

Do you agree? Disagree?





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  1. Agree wholeheartedly Patti. All parents can do is guide. If your kids don’t listen, there’s not a lot you can do. Cracking the whip will only turn them in the opposite direction. That’s what I say anyway when I catch them watching some crass, brain-numbing junk on the TV when they could be reading Victor Hugo.

    • admin

      I know, Jane, all we can do is guide them then they’re off on their own! My son is famous for doing the exact opposite of what his father asks him to do “just because”. AACK!

  2. I agree Patti. I have three children and they all have their own personalities and how they live their lives as now-grown adults. But you do have a responsibility as parents to guide them in what you believe is the right direction. It’s the old “nature vs. nurture” argument from psychology 101.

    • admin

      My mom and dad used to always comment how all their six girls were so different. Well, duh, right?

  3. Patti, that is the old argument of nature vs. nurture. I fall into the middle of that and believe there are cetain things we are born with … that’s nature. We come in with a slate half full … the rest is filled in by family and life … that’s nurture.

    Many studies of identical twins separated at birth show a consistent pattern of sameness between them, even if they were raised thousands of miles apart. The part we nuture in our children is how to mold and shape what they were given at birth … and that is the greatest challenge of being a parent 🙂

    • admin

      That is certainly a challenge, Florence. My son and daughter have traits that were there at birth and the “nurturing” part is left to me and my husband and family and friends. But the “nature” part will determine whether they select to accept what I tell them or not.

  4. Hi, Patti, well, yes, we have to teach them those things and instill values and morals they will carry the rest of their lives. I always said to one son, “You don’t want to be known as the smelly kid.”

    • admin

      Yeah, Vicki, and sometimes I wonder whether my son listened to a darn thing I ever told him! But I know inside him he knows what I’ve taught him and he’ll choose correctly.

  5. My parents influenced me in two ways: they taught me what to do and what NOT to do. I try not to repeat the mistakes they made with me, but I’m sure I’m making plenty of my own.

    Great post.

    • admin

      Oh, yeah, I hear you, Ann. Even though I’m not raising my kids as I was raised, I’m making plenty of mistakes. Hopefully, though, I’ve done more “good” things than “wrong” things.

  6. Spot on, Patti! It’s fun to be a parent, but it’s a load of hard work.

    • admin

      Yeah, Sloane, I would never “not” be a parent. It’s been extraordinarily rewarding and challenging at the same time.

  7. My grandmother once told my mother,’You have children to lose them.’ So true. We can only do our best in raising our kids with what we know. And knowing we can reprogram ourselves is a bonus! Great post, Patti! Cheers!

    • admin

      Thank you, Sharon. Man, I don’t know whether I can look at it in that way, though it’s totally true. And I know what you mean by “lose them”, but I can’t bring myself to think along those lines. AACK! I’ve always thought of it in terms of them “flying away”, but in reality isn’t it the same thing…

  8. I completely agree Patti. We don’t ‘make’ our children. I believe we own the responsibility to set the best example possible and to confront and discipline when they move outside the boundaries we set. However, I also believe there’s a time when we absolutely must set them free or they will never become their own person and learn to live in a society where they must obey the laws.

    • admin

      Oh man, have you hit the nail on the head, Sheri. I know my son’s time is coming because right now he’s living the life of leisure — only taking 12 units, only working on the weekends, and the rest of the time he’s as free as a bird, playing video games all day with his friends.

  9. Donna Coe-Velleman

    I’m with Florence and Sheri on this.
    Parenting is not for woosies.

    • admin

      Thanks for commenting, Donna. I sure can say I’m not a “woos”!!!

  10. So sorry to be tardy but I’ve been swamped.

    As to your thought about, I think providing a good example is important and each child, in fact even others around us, will pick up some of our behaviors and beliefs. But at some point, their inherent characteristics will also display and perhaps modify what had been your model. As does the environment and those within it our children live in. Nature and nurture blend along with personal choice and individuality.

    Very thoughtful topic with this post.

    • admin

      Thanks so much for dropping by, Casey. I believe in the nature and nurture thing as well. All I can do is set the best example possible and let them fly.

  11. Kitt Crescendo

    I’m not a mother, myself, so I guess I’ll speak from the position of the child.

    I have an amazing mom. She has taught me so much and sacrificed many of her dreams and ambitions to be the kind of person and parent that many kids only dream of having. She taught me two very important things early…that drive her absolutely crazy when it becomes pertinent to her. 😉 She taught me that I can be anyone I want to be. And that I should be independent and think for myself…do what is right for me. Great advice. Neither me or my sister need approval of those around us to do what we want to do. And if our decisions aren’t popular with our friends, so be it. Here’s the kicker…as parents, you have dreams for your kids…and often, due to age and experience, you see pitfalls we sometimes don’t. My mom often offers advice, sometimes solicited, sometimes not. Sometimes I listen, but sometimes I follow the beat of my own drummer. She always assumes that when I don’t follow the road she’s recommended, that I am not listening…or don’t care. That is rarely the case. What it really comes down to is the fact that I know I’m the one who will have to live with the consequences and/or regret. So sometimes (ok, maybe often) I don’t follow down the path she’s shown me.

    My sister is more the child my mom expected me to be. But she’s also learned that we’re both ok…and very close. Our drummers just play out a different rhythm. So far, neither has been a bad one. 😉

    • admin

      Hi Kitt! All I can say is “you’ve said it all” and said it exactly how I believe it should be. I love your take on individuality and kids making their own decisions – after taking into account what their parent(s) might think about a subject. Ultimately it IS the kid who has to live with his/her decision. They just need all the mental documentation to pull it off.
      Thank you for stopping by.

  12. That’s a nice post,My heart is with you.

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