Thursday, July 14, 2011


Many years ago when I was still a young new mom I remember asking my mother how they had managed to raise us with such a strong sense of personal responsibility.  She said she had no idea.  That it wasn't something they had consciously done, yet 4 out of the 5 of us have that value at our core.

Ally and I were having lunch in one of those soup & salad places today and we were noticing how many people took the no charge blue glass meant for water only and were filling them up with sodas and other drinks.  This brought about a discussion about values and she asked me the same question I asked my mom:  How did you raise us to be this way?

For me there was a conscious effort, but it was such a constant  discussion and modeling of behaviour that it, apparently sunk in without feeling hammered in!  I know that "walking the talk" means doing as you say - but it also means speaking out and explaining why you are doing things, what the decisions are based on and when it is a bad decision (like my tendency to drive over the speed limit on the freeway) that I am willing to accept responsibility for paying for a ticket should I be pulled over.  On the other hand, I never speed on residential streets because I so dislike it when others do so on the streets where we live.  Speaking these things out loud, explaining my reasoning is something my kids have always been interested in hearing and sometimes, debating!

By the same token, when I have seen an action taken by others that I don't agree with, I might point it out and explain why or ask them what they think of it.  Getting into discussions of values and judgement.  Sometimes it was successful and sometimes it wasn't - but I still tried to engage in those discussions with some frequency and from the time they were very little.

I think it is important to do the right thing even when you could get away with doing the "wrong" thing - or as I always say to them "just because you can doesn't mean you should."  Parents who teach their kids what they call "shortcuts" or ways to cheat or how to "get away with" getting a soda without paying for it are raising kids without a sense of right and wrong. 

As it is kids are growing up in a world where Wall Street employees make millions based on their deceptions, there are "cheat codes" available for video games and their sports heroes are doping to get ahead.  So the belief becomes "everyone does it, why not me?"  Parents are the strongest antidote to societal ills.

Ally was surprised and angered to hear that businesses pass on the loss of legitimate income from shoplifting and other thefts (like unpaid sodas) by raising the prices on all their goods for everyone.  We all pay for the cheaters.  Both out of our pockets, with the damage to our society inflicted by the mistrust and loss of respect for our fellow citizens and, most importantly to me, with the damage  increased cynicism etches on our souls.


smalltownmom said...

My sons are really decent people and I guess we did something similar -- model and discuss. I never really thought about it.

michiganme said...

I like your way of modeling honesty and responsibility to your kids; I feel like we have used the same method with ours. Honesty & integrity when no one is looking reveals your true character.

yogurt said...

For this reason I feel guilty when I order water at a restaurant that has a self serve fountain. I want to show the clerk, "see? I'm getting water. really, I am!"

I agree that modeling as well as explaining morals and ethics is the way to go. I think it instills feelings of pride in doing the right thing. We tend to remember good feelings and want to emulate later on.