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"Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work

“Do as I say, not as I do” - a phrase that’s been around for centuries.

The expectations we set for our children are often an idealised or ‘corrected’ version of our own childhoods. If we felt our parents were too rigid, we might err on the side of lax or flexible rules. Alternatively, if we felt our parents’ consistency & hard, no-nonsense attitude served us well, we might repeat this with our own children. In essence, we want our children to have everything we benefitted from & none of what we’ve struggled with. We want to give them the world.

We usually have the best of intentions for our children & are almost always working from a place of love. However, it’s important that examine our motives, what we’re modelling (or what our children are SEEING us do) to make sure our words are in line with our actions.

Children learn SO MUCH from what they see others doing. In fact, observational learning is one of the main ways that humans learn in general. We simply have too many things to learn & not enough hours in the day to learn through direct experience alone. Instead, because we are such a socially motivated species, we place a lot of emphasis & focus on learning by watching others. Children do this all day long.

As such, what we model, or show our children through our own behaviour has huge implications for what & how they learn. What they see us doing sends a MUCH stronger signal to them than what we tell them to do.

Even when they CAN talk, children often do not have a complex level of speech understanding, particularly for multi-step instructions. By the time we’ve finished telling them they have to wait until after they’ve finished dinner, washed their hands, brushed their teeth & put their pyjamas on to play with their toys – they’ve stopped listening.

Instead, they need us to model these steps to them. They need us to walk them through things, to involve them & show them. This proverb says it so well “Tell me & I forget, teach me & I may remember, involve me & I learn”.

References: Bandura 1977

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