Jul 14, 2012

What Did I Teach My Children?

July 14---One piece of advice you want to give to your child

 When I was learning to be a La Leche League Leader, one of the pearls of wisdom I came away with was regarding giving advice. We were warned away from giving advice to moms that came to us for help. Now that may seem the antithesis of what LLL stood for, right? If you go to someone for help, you usually want advice.

Well, maybe not. Look at it this way. If someone gave you some advice, and you took it, and it proved to not work out for you, who are you going to blame? However, if someone offered you a choice, perhaps a suggestion that has worked for some or one that has worked for others in the same situation, are you less likely to blame that person if the choice you picked didn't work for you?

So, when the blog prompt was about giving advice, that scenario popped into my head. And along with that, I wondered, "Did I give advice to my children, or did I try to teach by example?" Also, did I aim to give my children tools to live by, or did I simply teach them by rote?

What is advice, really? Merriam-Webster's defines it as recommendation regarding a decision or course of conduct. Dictionary.com is not much different: an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct, etc.

Sure, I gave my children advice on more than one occasion, but it usually wasn't in the form of advice as much as it was an expectation of behavior. I mean, I wouldn't say,"Son, I advise you to go to school." No, it was more like, "Son, you don't have a choice in this matter. You WILL go to school. And you will thank me for it later."

But when you give them tools for living, you show or tell them why they should make such and such decision. A very simple example would be to explain why you sort your clothes before washing. I have it on authority that despite giving my kids this excellent tip on laundering their clothes, they seldom do so now that they are away from home. Come to think of it, I didn't sort much laundry when I was their age either. I think it was because I had to use a laundromat, and it was cheaper to throw all my clothes into one washer. 

My daughter was sitting here with me when I started on this post, and naturally I asked her what was the best piece of advice I gave her. "I dunno," was her answer.  I think it means either 1) my teaching was balanced, or 2) she was too lazy to think. Great, all that mothering for all those years, and no one thing stands out in her mind. *sarcasm*

Finally, it came to me. I could say it was "Love others," "Follow your heart," or even "Do it right the first time" (a favorite of my father's). No, what I want my children to know is how to think for themselves.That their decisions have consequences with which they will have to live. Look before you leap. You made your bed, now lie in it. What are you going to do if everyone else is jumping off the bridge? They all say the same thing. It's what parents for millennia have been trying to teach their children.

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