My Mother’s Best Parenting Advice

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Today happens to be my mother’s birthday. On a day that I reserve for honoring the wonderful woman who brought me into this world, I’d like to share with you the best advice she ever gave me. It has nothing to do with removing stains from clothing and it doesn’t fit into a tidy catch phrase. In fact, the best advice I received from my mother isn’t something she ever said. I didn’t even realize that I knew it until I had a child of my own. The best lesson I learned from Momma Cross is that great parents teach through example.

It sounds pretty simple, I’ll admit. But as a young mother, I often worry about how I’ll teach my daughter responsibility and respectfulness. Its more than just demanding good behavior. I want her to know and understand right versus wrong. I want her to feel a moral obligation to the people and community around her. These are pretty complex and hard-to-define goals. And my mother taught me that the best way to instill these lessons in my daughter is to practice them in my own life.

My mother is a dedicated and successful teacher. She worked very hard, going back to college with three young children. She continued on to a Master’s degree when I started elementary school. I’ve always respected my mother’s professional accomplishments. Seeing her succeed in her field made me an ambitious employee. It taught me that I could be a loving mother and still care about my career. So when I had my daughter, I never questioned my ability to go back to work and perform my job while taking care of my family.

So often, I get frustrated when I can’t properly communicate a lesson or thought to my daughter. She’s an intelligent child, but she’s still only three. There are simply some things that she doesn’t have the vocabulary or understanding to catch on to. When those instances pop up and I feel like I want to rip my hair out, I take a deep breath and try to remember that my little girl has time to pick things up. Morals and ethics don’t occur overnight. They build, as day in and day out, we watch those around us make responsible and thoughtful choices. Every time my daughter sees her parents donating time or resources to charity, she learns was generosity is. When we drag our butts out of bed and slug our way to work, she sees that responsibility might  not always be fun, but its important. And every time she watches her family come together and help out on any project that might come up, she knows that families love and support each other.

There are a million ways to teach our children. We can make rules and outline incentives. We can devise punishments and discipline plans. But the most important way that children learn from their parent is by watching their behavior. I’m lucky that I had a wonderful role model in my mother. So next time I’m worried about motivating my daughter on grand, sweeping principles, all I need to remember is that if I apply it in my own life, my little girl will see it. There are a lot of ways to teach our children about our expectations for their behavior, but never forget that sometimes actions speak louder than words.

(Photo: Thinkstock)