One thing I’ve noticed so far about parenthood is that the things our kids most readily pick up from us has nothing to do with the carefully crafted “lessons” we try to put forth. It’s definitely not like a political campaign, where you create an image with stories and photo-ops in order to present a pre-defined message to voters. No, kids aren’t fooled by spin. They see all sides of you, and the lessons they learn from the things you say and do when you don’t think they’re paying attention, well, those seem to be the most sticky.
With Lucy not yet four, we’re starting things very simply. But that’s not to say we haven’t already put a lot of thought into this undertaking, especially when it comes to the “hidden lessons” we might be passing along. I recently read an article that showed how little impact homework has on the test scores of students, even as they are assigned more of it than ever before. When asked why they do it, some teachers admitted that it’s not because they feel it’s necessary, but because parents expect it. I know a family who sends their children to a private preparatory school, and the homework assigned to their seventh grader would make a grad student gag.
It makes me wonder what these schools are really preparing their students for…a life of workaholism, perhaps? It’s not hard to imagine a clear (and probably unintended) lesson being sent here is that you work all day and then go home and work some more.
Kim and I are shooting for a bit more balance. Apart from all the specific knowledge we hope to impart on our children, we hope that the hidden lesson our kids pick up from our efforts is a lifelong love for learning. That learning is not just something you do within pre-determined hours of a day with a break from it during the summer. It remains to be seen how successful we will be, but at least we are intentional about it.
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, mentor, coach, or a concerned adult, keep in mind that words matter, but not as much as actions. The young people in your life are paying attention to the hidden lessons of your actions more than anything else. While it’s impossible to spot them all, a little mindfulness goes a long way.