Actions (Greater Than) Words

My mind works in a weird, and winding, and tangly way.

For example, the other day, I was driving along, and RANDOMLY (my mind is weird, winding, tangly, AND random) thought, “Is it strange that I don’t have any recipes that are my “speciality?”

You know, like “Hayley’s Famous Enchiladas”, or “Hayley’s Killer Brownies.” Something that when my boys grow up one day, they will say, “I sure do miss mom’s ______.”  Some special recipe to pass down to my daughters- in-law and say “now make sure you cook this for my boy! It’s his favorite, you know!” (Gawd, THAT would be annoying).  

Nope, I’ve got nothing like that. We kind of survive on spaghetti, salmon, tacos/taco salad/lettuce wrapped tacos/taco meat in a bowl, and yes…enchiladas. But they certainly aren’t “famous.”  My kids eat a lot of chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, and blueberries too (I buy organic, ok? I’m a mediocre mother, but I DO ensure my children eat their junk organically).  

Anyway, I started wondering why that is the case. Why DON’T I have “specialties?” Which led me to consider the fact that MY mom is the same way. Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing. My mom is a FANTASTIC mom, and was incredibly nurturing. She cared for us well, and went over and above in MANY ways. She had plenty of other “things,” but “Mom’s Speciality” in the kitchen just wasn’t necessarily her thing. My siblings and I survived fine this way, and I believe my children are thriving spectacularly as well.  I don’t really consider it a “negative,” and I’m not all that concerned about any of it.  

The thing that struck me, however, was this: it’s not as though my mom ever sat down and told me, “We don’t place a ton of emphasis on elaborately cooked meals. In fact, we believe elaborately cooked meals are a bad thing, and I am strongly recommending that you never make elaborately cooked meals for your family either.” No conversation like that ever occurred. Rather, this was simply something that I observed…something that was my “norm”…and therefore, it’s what I’ve now carried on into my own little family.  

So as I’ve said three times now, the meal thing isn’t a bad thing. But it did get me thinking: if this is the way it works…if children are way more shaped by what they observe and WHAT THEY ARE ACCUSTOMED TO than what is actually being SAID to them… ARE there some negative habits or behaviors of mine that my children are observing, that have now just become their norm?

Why yes. Yes there are.  

I can think of a ton:

  • rushing
  • running behind
  • impatience (towards them, towards other drivers on the road, towards Netflix when it’s moving too slowly, and the list goes on and on)
  • guzzling diet cokes like they are going out of style (even though my kids remind ME that they are unhealthy)
  • playing on my phone too much (all the while harping at them about the negative effects of too much screen time)

I could LITERALLY go on and on. Right now I have no less than 20 more examples in my head.  

What’s ironic though, is that I am pretty masterful and eloquent at heart-to-heart talks (if I do say so myself). Not only do I rock at them, my boys and I have them pretty frequently. And during those talks, we cover ALL of those topics. The importance of patience, of planning ahead, of giving other people grace, EVEN when it’s undeserved, of taking care of your body, of sharpening your mind by reading and learning and exploring outside. We talk about ALL of that. But now, as I’m thinking this whole thing through, I bet if I’m lucky, 5% of the words I’m saying to them during these talks are even being heard. And of that 5%, maybe 1% is actually resonating with them.  99% of what is shaping them, is that which they are OBSERVING. Yikes!!! This is SCARY. And yet…it’s a good wake up call.

All talk and no action isn’t ONLY a factor when we are discussing building good habits into our children.  

It comes into play with discipline, too. I talk a big game…but I don’t often back it up. Too many threats, not enough follow through.  

And how about this? I bet all of us are good at vocalizing to our children how much we love them. I know I am. I probably tell my kids a million times a day how much I love them, how special they are, how thankful I am for them. Master of words here, remember? And yet, that doesn’t stop me, five minutes later, from rolling my eyes at them (when I THINK they don’t see, but they do). Sighing with impatience. Snapping at them. Seeming less than thrilled at the prospect of “having to” play Star Wars or sword fight with them.  It’s great that I’ve verbalized how I feel about them, and yet…once again, my actions aren’t really backing that up.  

The theme here (in case I’ve lost you with all my tangly, winding, randomness) is that we would probably ALL be better parents if we focused our attention more on actions, and less on talk, in EVERY aspect of our parenting.  

Action > Words

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