National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Do as I Do

Family Matters

BY Dr. Ray Guarendi

August 28-September 10, 2011 Issue | Posted 8/19/11 at 5:29 PM


Is it fair for me to expect conduct from my children that I don’t always show myself? I don’t want to be a “Do as I say, not as I do” parent.

“Do as I say, not as I do” is part of every parent’s parenthood. In fact, it’s a healthy part. What conscientious father or mother doesn’t want his or her child to reach higher than they — in morality, character and maturity?

“Do as I do” is the ideal. It’s something to strive for, and, certainly, it is the more durable form of parenting. It presents a child with a model to watch, as well as guidelines to follow.

Here’s the catch. If we linked expectations for our children to our own habits, waiting to discipline until we ourselves were well disciplined, would we ever discipline? Because your temper sometimes controls you, will you allow your son’s temper free expression? Because your mouth sometimes has a mind of its own, does that make your son’s disrespect permissible? Because you’re nowhere near the person you want to be, will you deny yourself the responsibility to teach your daughter to be her best?

Being a grown-up means that we have to discipline ourselves. It is the loving duty of a parent, however, to provide the discipline that the child lacks, even though we ourselves sometimes lack self-discipline.

Will kids fight being forced to live in ways we ourselves don’t? Absolutely. Kids instantly zero in on any perceived inequity, even if it’s for their good.

As a rule, the closer you get to the “Do as I do” style, the less friction you’ll encounter from your children when you enforce the standards. They may still resist; after all, they’re not going to behave maturely just because you do. But, at the least, they can’t fire the double-standard accusation at you, not legitimately anyway.

There’s a bright side to seeing the discrepancy between how we act and how we expect our kids to act. It forces us to look harder at ourselves and stretch higher than we otherwise might. Everybody wins.

Dr. Ray Guarendi is a clinical psychologist, speaker and author of You’re a Better Parent Than You Think! and Back to the Family.