Parenting through actions
I love you for your example, for how you taught me to think clearly and argue respectfully. Parenting is done through actions, not words.
I am coming to the conclusion that what we model is more important than the values we teach. This is not to say that the values we teach are not important but that how we treat our children and other people creates a greater and more lasting impact than what we say we value.
My father, like the typical father, had a set of values that he wanted to teach me. He understood something that many parents especially fathers struggle to grasp. He understood not to lecture me on values but rather to help me explore them. He also understood that what he modeled would speak much more loudly than his words… Parenting through actions.
I remember as a teenager having dinner with the extended family. I said that we do not have good information about what is happening in the Soviet Union and that the US had its own propaganda machine that helped to distort the information that we did know. All of a sudden the table went quiet while my uncle who was 20 years my senior launched a vicious attack.
We went toe to toe for a few minutes as everyone sat in silence. Suddenly he had had enough and he told me that if I loved them so much I should go live with them. Later after dinner my father saw that I was shaken and was walking around trying to deal with what had just happened.
He slowly walked up beside me and told me that he and my grandfather had been talking. They were impressed with how I had handled myself with my uncle. In a moment I knew that it was ok. They trusted me to hold my own. They did not have to step in and rescue me. I also knew that they respected my point of view. I had experienced their trust and their respect. No lectures could touch the power of that moment.
I think that some of the strength that I showed that day came from numerous talks I had been having with my father in his work shed. We would sit by his work bench and talk. I do not remember what he said or what subjects were discussed.
I am sure some conversations were about problems I was having while others were more about life and my young opinions of the world. He would listen, get me to think more deeply about whatever was going on, and impart some wisdom for me to consider. There were no lectures. Rarely did he take a strong stand telling me what I had to do. I knew from the way that we talked that he respected me and my opinions.
I hope you can take the example of an old farmer who never read any of the books that I love but somehow understood that what he modeled would teach me values much more deeply than what he said… Parenting through actions.
Allen Rader, LCSW – Allen is a therapist, entrepreneur and founder of ATS Wellness and Therapy. He enjoys assisting people in transforming their lives rather than just learning to cope with the challenges of life.