More than anything, the statement “Do as I say, not as I do” is just one example of wishful thinking that parents engage in. All the time! From the moment they are born, our kids look to us as models for how they should behave. For example, we know very well that if parents model poor eating habits (like sitting in front of the TV during meals or not serving and eating an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and other assorted “real” — not processed — food), their children will likely also have poor eating habits. The same goes for the language we use when we talk to our children or to others, the way we handle anger or adversity, or the way we solve problems and fix things. We teach them how to drive, but the truth is they learn a lot about driving well before they get their permits. How parents model kindness trumps anything another person or school or church can do to produce children who are kind. As another saying goes: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Nowhere does “Do as I say, not as I do” fall flat on its face more than with smoking tobacco. You can tell your kids all about the dangers of smoking until you are blue in the face, but if you yourself smoke (until you’re blue in the face), well… actions do speak louder than words. A new study published in Pediatrics confirms what we already know: children are much more likely to become smokers if a parent or a sibling living in the same house smokes.
Even in an era of declining rates of teenage cigarette use in the United States, children of current and former smokers face an elevated risk of smoking. Prevention efforts to weaken intergenerational associations should consider parents’ long-term cigarette use, as well as the smoking behavior of older siblings in the household.
What we’re really talking about here is credibility. Even though we’re not perfect, parents need to recognize that what we say AND what we do are being observed closely by our children. If we want them to believe us and trust us when we speak, then we have to provide a good example.
Kids are smart. They also are great “BS detectors!”