Living by Example
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A good example is the best sermon. - Benjamin Franklin
Children are the future of tomorrow and most people desire a very bright future for all children. Sadly most children are susceptible and exposed to so many societal ills like child labour, slavery, war, violence, rape, prostitution etc. In order to prevent all these, so many organisations and individuals invest their time, energy, resources to make provision for the education, health, safety and general welfare of children around the world. We must all admit that children have really benefitted and are still benefitting from all such work. However, I believe there is one superfluous significant investment we can all make in the future of children which might cost us little or nothing and that is living by example. In other words, practicing what you preach.
I have a question for all child rights advocates, parents, teachers, guardians and all those who have children in their care or who come in contact with children.
Do you practice what you preach? Can children learn all the virtues you teach them from your daily life? Is your daily life a source of inspiration to all the children around you? Are you a standard role model?
I sincerely hope I can get a resounding YES to all these questions but I doubt if that will be the case.
This is very crucial because children easily grasp what they see, far greater than what they are being told or taught. They are watching and scrutinizing everything we do. They are also learning much about the way life is supposed to be lived by experiencing their life through our vision. There is simply no way to get around all the little eyes that are upon us.
For example, how effective is a lecture about the rights of a child to that child when the speaker turns around and sexually abuses another child? In the field of child protection I came across a 5 year old boy who always had sexual relations with his 3 year old sister. When he was asked where he learnt it from, he said “Mummy always does it with uncle”. The mother lived a wayward life and always had different men at home which exposed the children to various immoral acts. This is pure incest but does the 5 year old boy know this? He was simply practicing what he saw.
Most of us set expectations for children but behave in hypocrisy. Telling a child not to smoke, when we do, or telling a child to be peaceful but engaging in violence are just some of the mixed messages that we can send to children. Gone are the days when “do as I say, not as I do” mentality worked with children. At most it could work when they are very young but as they grow up rapidly these days, they will be the first to point out this hypocrisy. At that point, our words will carry little meaning compared to our actions. Do-so is more important than say-so.
The American Academy of Psychology suggests when children grow up with parents who have bad habits; they are 65% more likely to take on those habits as adults. The same is true for children who grow up with parents who try to live a life with the utmost of health in mind. The impact of living by example is far greater on the minds of children than teaching them daily. If we are interested in really providing a bright future for children it is time for us to reduce the vast gap that exists between theory and practice. It is time to teach children not just with our words but with our lifestyle too. It is time to be courageous and live the truth about what we teach our children every day of our lives. A good example has twice the value of good advice.