A few weeks ago, at the weekly after-school program I run through my local church, a group of middle school girls and I got to talking about parental advice. I have a young son and they forbade me to be the typical hypocritical payment.
"What do you mean?" I asked. I got a large range of answers.
"My mom tells me not to smoke, but she can't go an hour without stepping outside for a cigarette."
"My dad tells me not to do drugs, but he's been in rehab three times."
"My mother tells me not to sleep around, but she still doesn't know who my dad is!"
"My parents tell me not to be a selfish brat, but they're the most egotistical people I know!"
"My dad tells me not to swear, but when I do something wrong, I'm called every name in the book!"
Now I have no doubt that things were blown to their usual middle-school-girl proportion. I have been working with middle and high school students for going on ten years and learned quickly to take everything they say with at least a grain of salt.
Of course, I stuck up for us parents, trying to explain the possible motives for the "hypocritical" parental advice-namely, preventing their daughters from making the same mistakes they did. However, that didn't change anyone's mind... mostly since I'm not their mother.
With summer upon us-it's June already!!!-you will probably be spending more time with your kids, and your parental advice may fall on deaf ears. So I thought I would share some advice I got from the experts-the kids themselves.
Fist, as kids get older, "because I said so" no longer works. Starting usually around sixth grade, children start watching actions and how they may or may not line up with what you are saying. You need to change your mindset going in.
Second, you need to be ready to answer hard questions. You will need to let your guard down and be a bit vulnerable with your child. When you go sit down to talk with your child about drinking, smoking, sex, or anything else that you or your child may consider hypocritical you will need to explain why you started the activity in question. Be honest. Tell your child why you started drugs, slept around or began smoking. But be sure to include the emotional, financial, and psychological "side effects." (Telling your child exactly how much you spend on cigarettes each week / month / etc. may keep them from starting smoking simply because they want to have more spending money.)
When you speak with your child, you need to at least be trying to change your behavior. Try to stop smoking, start holding your tongue or thinking of others first.
Most of all, you need to reiterate that you are trying to keep your child from making the mistakes you did. It's okay to tell your child that you had fun in the moment-they are hearing that everywhere they go. They know that drinking, doing drugs, or having sex is fun... they just don't know the "unforeseen" consequences such as drunk driving convictions, having to break horrible addictions, or unplanned pregnancy.
When you sit down to have "the talk" with your kids, don't worry about looking like a hypocrite. Your actions scream when your words whisper, but both are crucial in the middle and high school years. Let your kids know about your struggles and failures and they may not follow in your footsteps.