What not to teach your children

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Children learn not just from what we teach them but more importantly from our example.

They learn from what we say and do every day. They think that if we do it or say it, it must be okay for them to do so too.

So watch what you say and do around your kids because they will imitate your behaviour and bad habits.

Here’s a random list of what not to teach your kids:

To swear

“Do as I say not as I do.” This is something parents sometimes try to tell their kids, hoping that the little ones will be smarter and not follow our bad habits. But they’re children. They don’t know any better and they will imitate what they see and hear.

Here’s another thing to watch out for.

We’ve all giggled when a small child cusses, not knowing the meaning of the word(s) he/she says. But, each time we laugh at it, it enforces their behaviour and they will just want to swear more.

Explain to them why it’s wrong to use that word and teach them a better way to express themselves. The next time they do it, expecting attention, make sure you don’t give them the attention and let them know once again that it’s wrong.

Small children have a basic need to please their parents. They won’t keep doing it if you keep reinforcing that it’s wrong and it doesn’t make you happy.

If you don’t want your kids to swear, then make sure you don’t do it in front of them and the other adults in the home don’t either.

Kids follow your example – good or bad.

Learn new ways to express your frustration rather than swear.

To throw rubbish out the car

Frequently when driving you will see a driver or passenger from a car near you throw something out the window and to the road.

What are you teaching them? That it’s okay to be litterbugs.

Sure, it’s just one piece of tissue paper. Or just one cigarette box. Now, imagine if everyone did that. And where does all the rubbish go? Down the drain, which it eventually clogs up and leads to flash floods.

We all complain when there are flash floods. Why aren’t the authorities doing more? Why aren’t they cleaning the drains?

The truth is, it starts with us. That rubbish you throw out your car window is what’s clogging up our drains.

And, your kids are watching you. Your example means it’s okay to do it.

Keep a bag in the car to dispose your rubbish and empty it into the rubbish bin when you get home.

To be rude

Each time you’re rude to your cleaner/maid or the waitress at a restaurant, you’re teaching your child that it’s okay to speak rudely to. And, don’t be surprised if they turn around and talk to you the same way.

Each time you cut a queue, you’re teaching your child to be self-absorbed and inconsiderate.

Instead, queuing up teaches them to respect others.

That work is more important than them

You may be working hard to earn an income to take care of your family, put a roof over their heads, food on the table and send them to college. But, you also need to make time with them. When you’re at home, make sure you’re there in body, mind and spirit.

Very often parents are at home in body, but their minds and spirits are still at work.

The kids know. The loud message you’re sending them is that work is more important than them.

Remember the song Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin?

Listen to the lyrics. It will send chills up your spine.


By all means, go to work. But, when you’re at home with the kids, be present.

That marriage is about yelling and long faces

So often we hear couples who are unhappy in their marriage say they remain in it for the kids. But what are you teaching the kids? They know when you’re unhappy. You can’t hide that from them.

You’re just teaching them that marriage is about being miserable. You’re not teaching them that love is a wonderful thing. They will grow up having a negative impression of marriage.

Either work on fixing your marriage or find another solution. Yelling, screaming and long faces in front of the kids, is not the answer.

To be racists or ‘religionists’

Kids pick up on things and that includes our comments about people and things around us. They may not know what a “racist” is or if you’re biased against another person’s religion, but they will copy what you say and how you think.

If you’re always condemning a particular race or religion, they will grow up doing it too.

Your child picks up on everything you say and do. So, watch what slips out of your mouth and who you belittle and mock.

That health does not matter when you’re young

You need to take care of your health as a family. This means everyone has a balanced meal and everyone exercises. If you manage to do it together as a family, all the better.

Don’t tell your kids to eat their vegies and exercise when you’re wolfing down the crisps and not exercising.

They will only be loved if they are pretty and thin

If your child has a weight problem, encourage them to eat healthy and to exercise. Avoid harping on their weight and being judgmental. By constantly harping on their weight, you’re sending them the wrong message. They will take it as you not loving or accepting them completely. Kids tend to be particularly sensitive in their pre-teen and teenage years, especially girls.

If you’re not careful, your child will grow up to have body image problems and even eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

Encourage, don’t belittle, condemn or nag. Making exercising and eating healthy into a family activity may help.

You only love them if they get good grades

Grades are important but they’re not everything. Your child needs constant reminders that it’s okay even if they don’t excel in all subjects, and that you will still love them no matter what.

And, actually, learning to fail graciously and pick yourself up is a great skill to teach kids. There are theories by parenting experts that if they never learn to fail, they will not know how to deal with disappointments and setbacks in life.

Teach them instead that it’s okay to fail now and then, as long as we pick ourselves up, rectify what we did wrong and try again.