Do As I Do, Not As I Say?

26 Jan

Did anyone else grow up hearing the phrase, “Do as I say – NOT as I do?” If so, we’re definitely not alone! That’s how parents used to justify their not-so-great behavior in front of children. Even today, we parents are tempted to take a “Do as I say…” approach when we’re doing a whole host of naught things (texting while driving, fighting dirty, eating too much junk food, etc.)

The problem, of course, is that the research is pretty clear: Children will do as they SEE you do – NOT as you say.

In the world of conflict, that means your children will handle conflict as they see you do it – NOT how you instruct them to handle it. If you fight dirty with your spouse, they will too. If you stonewall and use the silent treatment, they will too. If you use contempful words to try and hurt the other person, they will too.

Now, I realize this is a huge bummer for those of us who make mistakes (and, isn’t that all of us?). But, this theory can work in our favor, as well.

Let’s say you have an argument with your spouse in front of your children – and you’re afraid you may have gone too far. Now, since you read this blog, you’re also afraid you’re modeling bad conflict behavior to your children. WAIT! You can fix it. Just make sure your children are also witnessing the resolution. Bring them into the room when you and your spouse are apologizing to one another and promising to do better. You can even say things like, “I used below-the-belt tactics to try and hurt you, and I shouldn’t do that.” Or, “I’m trying to not use the silent treatment during our fights, but I’ll try harder.”

You can’t reverse time and undo the fight, but you CAN show your children how to resolve a conflict. And, since they do as you do, they’ll learn how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way, too.


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