As I wrap up the Discipline and Adopted Child Series, I would like to focus on an area that is related to discipline – modeling good behavior. The importance of modeling good behavior is often overlooked as part of the discipline process, but the behavior you model to your child can be a powerful influence over how your child behaves.
For example, I have tried many methods to get my son to make his own bed. One method or another will work for a while, but he always falls back into leaving his bed unmade. Whenever I ask him why, he says, “Daddy never makes his bed, and I want to be like Daddy.” Ouch!
The behavior you model can affect the morals your child develops. If you try building a child’s morals with a “do as I say and not as I do” philosophy, your child is likely to follow your example rather than your words. For example, if you ask your child to lie for you on a regular basis (”Tell Aunt Martha that I am not at home”), why should it be a surprise when your child chooses to lie when it is convenient for him?
Unfortunately, many older adopted children have had bad behaviors modeled that are now ingrained and must be “undone” by the adoptive parents. For example, it is common for abused children to lie compulsively. If you are parenting an older adopted child who has taken on the bad behaviors modeled by others, it is doubly important that you live the values you want to see your child reflect. While your modeling good behaviors might not be enough to “undo” the child’s bad behaviors, your chances of undoing the damage are next to nil if you are not modeling the behaviors you hope to see in your child.
A good example is worth a thousand conversations. Let your actions do the talking. I have never specifically told my son that it is a good thing to be involved in a child’s school, but I have modeled this behavior with my actions. He takes pride in having his mother help in his classroom, and he is learning that being involved in his school is a good thing without my saying a word.
However, whenever I do something that has a life lesson, I do talk to my son about it. For example, my son and I found a purse in a parking lot. We took it to the cashier in the store without opening it and then talked about the right thing to do (return the purse) versus the wrong thing to do (steal the contents). Talking about the morals reinforces the lesson, but the real lesson comes from the behavior itself.
Photo credit: Faith Allen