Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I’ve been mulling around this post for quite some time now. I think there is something to discuss when it comes to our diverse ideas of what makes someone a “good” or “bad” parent. I also think there are some things we can try to hash out as a group (and guests!)

Growing up, did we not always hear our parents say how they always want us to have more than they had, be better than they were? And did we not often have times when our parents did or said things that made us pause for a moment or made us think “Wow, but they said I couldn’t do that!”  The universal response has almost always been:

“Do as I say, not as I do”

I thought about this because I have a pretty foul mouth and my son has picked up some curses. I do not curse AT him or anything (I hate that), but I occasionally let a curseword slip by when I’m around him. It is usually when I’m driving. You understand. I am working on teaching him that he should not curse, but here iss the rub: I am not opposed to cursing, as a rule. I do not feel right telling him he cannot ever curse because I believe when he is older, he can speak as he wants to. I do, however, feel compelled to teach him that he cannot do so now, as a child, and as he gets older, I will teach him about times and place where it would be inappropriate to use such language.  Growing up, I’d never curse around my father. Now, we curse when speaking to each other occasionally. I’ll never forget when I was about 25, my dad dropped the F-bomb and said “Well, you’re old enough now. I know you curse, you know I curse.” Our relationship was forever changed by a four-letter word lol.  This is just one example.

There are things I do, that I do not think are necessarily wrong for an adult to do, but I do not want my son picking up or doing right now.  I battle with feeling like a hypocrite. Someone said I am too liberal a parent and that I need to keep it “old school”.  Here is the thing though… old school is not always right. In fact, “old school” includes a LOT of things I am very much against, with regard to child-rearing. I was called a liberal parent, as if it were a bad thing. I do not see a problem with making certain allowances for your child, if that is how you want your child to be raised. Understanding society’s limitations and expectations, however, I feel compelled to make sure my son learns certain ways of being so as to not get into “trouble”. As a Black male, he is “trouble” by virtue of his existence, if you let some people tell it. So I feel even more conflict in the things I let him do, the things I teach him, and how far I let him go.

When my son asks me about drinking, I’ll tell him, like my mother told me, he can drink when he can buy alcohol. I started drinking at 14. First time I got drunk, I as so hungover, my mother said, “Now you see what I mean”. She did not beat me, ground me, or anything. I did not drink again for at least three years. I grew up knowing my mother smoked marijuana. She supported its legalization, as do I.  She taught me that smoking it was not wrong, but that it was something adults should do. I do not think she was wrong for teaching me that.

So I bring it to you, dear readers… are there things you do that you do not necessarily want your children doing, but feel weird telling them that?

Are there things you are OK with your children doing now or in the future that others may frown upon? How do you handle that?

13 thoughts on “Do As I Say, Not As I Do

  1. Lol…all three of the above. The easiest one first: I drink, and my children know it. I tell them it’s wine, it’s not for children, it’s for adults. That’s how it was explained inmy house, as both of my parents drank, and still do.

    Weed: there was no instruction in my house, positive or negative. My father smoked out in the open, so there was no message that it was bad. But again, it seemed like an adult thing. That’s how I interpreted it. The legality issue came back to bite him, so there was the message of don’t get arrested. Would I encourage my child to smoke? No. But I could imagine having a rational conversation with an 18 year old about it as they go off to college. I don’t want my high schooler smoking weed.

    Cussing: I make an effort not to cuss around my kids, although I too have a potty mouth sometimes. I do think it’s appropriate, just like for alcohol and weed, to say there are things adults do that kids can’t, and cussing is one of them. My 4 year old doesn’t really know a fuck from a shit and until he does he shouldn’t use those words. Furthermore, he’s not mature enough to know the proper settings in which to cuss and when not to cuss. So no cussing allowed at all. But language is different from weed and alcohol, where usage depends on access. Language can be learned anytime, and that’s the reason I try not to cuss around them, while I have no issue having a glass of wine. (that’s also why I wouldn’t smoke- wouldn’t want them to get a contact high, or have the smell in their hair and clothes.)

    great topic!

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    1. One, I don’t remember you smoking, WTF? Maybe all the smoking I did… LOL (my memory is crap now)

      Two, I tell G that my wine is Mommy’s special juice, just like Mommy has a special toy (that she needs to learn to put away)….

      Just sayin’

      A lot of things I dont do as much since becoming a mom and I wonder if its about being a parent or just getting older. I dont drink nearly as much and when I do, I find I’ve graduated from hard liquor to wine. I don’t smoke nearly as much, because of the cost. I still curse a lot. I still have road rage. I still listen to adult music (and yeah, my kid gets exposed to it).

      I just think the main issue is that I’m not conservative in my lifestyle. I don’t follow or support a lot of old school or established parenting rules. I dont believe in children being seen and not heard. I dont believe “spare the rod spoil the child”. I dont believe in a lot of those things. I don’t think I’m a worse off human being because of some of the things I do, so I dont think my son will be when he gets older if he models himself after me. I’d like to think I turned out alright.

      But still, we always want more for our children. We want them to do and be better than we are. I do notice that I’m way more picky about what he eats than my mother ever was about me. I am more focused on him getting exercise than anyone was about me. I don’t want him to be overweight/obese. So there ARE some things that I’m working on changing, but I guess I’m just a “liberal” parent.

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  2. I am also not conservative in my lifestyle. My kids know popular music, although I will turn the station if something like “make you think I in in invented sex” comes on. I think that’s too adult for me to try to explain. Now Ahmir the other day was singing “on to the next one” bc I bought the album, albeit the clean version. I’m okay with that.

    I also don’t believe in some old school parenting practices, like children should be seen and not heard. I will talk to my kids when they don’t like something ive done, we negotiate, which is something I never did with my parents. I listen when they cry, even after punishment. But I do believe children should address adults by Mr. and Mrs. and not this newfangled calling adults by their first names. I do occasionally spank my kids (we differ on this) but I use a wooden spoon, never a belt like was used on me, and never on anything other than their hands. (Although I was
    recently reminded to never say never.) We eat organic when possible, and I’m making a real effort to cook every day for my kids.

    But I think it’s an issue of class and education and generation too. We, as a society, know more about parenting and different ways of doing it. With more resources, we can “afford” to have slightly less obedient children than our parents could, who at least in my case, needed us to be in line all the time. They didn’t have time to go through a lot of talking to get us to do right. I do, that is, I have time to correct my kids behavior in Ways that take extended time. And knowledge of these techniques is a function of education.

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  3. I don’t think it’s old school to think of some things as adult things and others as child things.

    I don’t curse around my son, but I do use words that substitute for curses, like “crap” “Oh Crap!” or “Crap…crap…crap”. My son now says ‘crap’. I don’t think it is appropriate for him to say crap, though better than sh*t, I still think there are some things that are innapropriate for children to say…and tell him so. “Peanut, that’s not nice.”

    So far it does the trick, but he’s two, so that can change at any minute.

    I am what might be considered liberal in my child-rearing, but I also have my mother living with me helping out, and she’s much more old-school. In this case, there is a lot more that I do in terms of negotiation regarding her ways of raising children, and my own.

    I smoke, but NEVER around them (grandma and baby). I’m not much of a drinker, but if I want a beer there is no issue. He’s sipped it, and found it not to his liking, so I’m not worried.

    I think, when it comes to parenting, you’ve got to be you. I don’t think perfection should be the goal of any parent. So be who you are, and if they should ever come to you and ask you about it, make sure you have a good back story.

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  4. Interesting post, Benee! I kinda missed the whole drinking thing in college; one day, I woke up, was 27, and had never been drunk, or even really tipsy. By that time, what’s the point? LOL! My husband was a drinker in college, and quit all together shortly after we started dating, and we’ve concluded that the absence of alcohol in our lives is a good thing. We’ll raise our children to know that we don’t expect them to drink, even after they leave our home.

    I wouldn’t say I have a potty mouth, but I’m known to use a few expletives when I’m frustrated. I’ve actually been trying to stop, as I know babies start developing language way before they utter their first words. It’s not even that it’s an “adult” thing; it’s more about the energy behind the words. When I cuss, it’s an indication that I’m not present; I let something, or someone, get the best of me, and that’s not healthy. Two, I also think it’s a failure of vocabulary; I could probably express my frustration in ways that are less crass, and probably more colorful! (btw, has anybody ever seen that Orbit chewing gum commercial? “Who are you calling a Cootie-queen, you lint-licker?” cracks me up every time…).

    Popular music is a tough one. I’ve said before that I think children are exposed to adult themes way too early. Not only will I likely change the station if songs with adult themes come on, I purposefully play children’s songs in the car and house. I agree that there are just some things they can’t understand yet, nor should they be asked to.

    We try to eat whole/fresh food everyday, but that’s old school to me; growing up, we always had the same. I will not discipline physically; EVER. There is just no need for it, in any time, or in any situation. I know I don’t yet have a child that needs discipline on a daily basis, but this is a moral issue for me; it’s non-negotiable. I cannot expect a child to go out into the world and respect her body as well as the bodies of other human beings if I do not respect hers.

    I also don’t believe that children should be “seen and not heard.” I love Toya’s position on listening to children when they’re upset or crying, even after a punishment. Just because they deserved discipline doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge how hard it was for them to receive it.

    How about sex? What do you intend to tell your children about sex before marriage, or sex before a certain age? I think this is a hard one; teaching children that sex is healthy and normal, and meant to be enjoyed, but also teaching them how to make mature decisions about it–where’s the book on that? In retrospect, I made some bad decisions about sex; I don’t want my daughter to repeat them, but I don’t want to pull one of those “do as I say, not as I do” numbers…

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    1. I think in general, it seems like many of us remained who we were even after we had children. Cursing for me has never been an issue of not being present, so it doesn’t bother me now, but I’ve never known you to be a big curser before having a baby so I wouldn’t expect it now. I think this is the way it should be; trying to change yourself too much just because you have a child is bound to be really difficult and can make you miserable. And if you are ashamed of something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Instead of teaching your children it’s okay, they are really learning it’s okay to do things they are ashamed of.

      Re sex: do as I say definitely won’t work – did it work with any of us? I think a healthy dose of respect and education and spirituality will go a long way. I think that did work for me, without much talk at all about sex (besides don’t get pregnant bc my mom was a teenager when she had me) . I was well educated to at least keep myself safe, and I respected my body enough not to give it away. I don’t know exactly how I learned that, but I know that I’m already trying to teach that to my children. While some may not agree with the physical discipline, I think the occasional nature of the spoon on the hand does not severely impact the lesson of respect for their bodies.

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    2. I think sex is a bigger issue for me, being bisexual. Part of me feels that sex is a private act that shouldn’t really be discussed except between those engaging in it. The LARGER part of me feels that open, honest, and frank discussions about sex will be healthy. I think when it is normalized, talked about, it doesnt become as appealing in the “ooooh let me try that because my parents say I cant” kind of way.

      And thats how I feel about most things. A lot of things I did, it wasnt because I was trying to rebel or because my parents made it taboo. I’ve grown up with friends and family members who had that exact experience. Parents said no no no and as soon as they got a taste of freedom, they said yes yes yes, to everything, in very dangerous ways.

      I feel that if I can discuss things like drinking, sex, smoking, music, and other things openly with my son, he might not be off in a rush to do them and hide his behaviors. I want him to come to me when he runs into a problem and not feel as if he can’t because he is afraid of my reaction or the discipline that will come with it, yanno?

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  5. Oh wait, the bisexuality part lol

    I want my son to be accepting of all types of people and all types of families. While I dont feel the need to tell him the details of my sex life, I do want to share my sexuality with him when it becomes appropriate to discuss it.

    They say kids as young as 5 can actively engage in and be receptive to discussions about sex. In fact, we NEED to have some discussions about good touches and bad touches as early as posisble (thanks pervs!). But I’m not sure how to approach it. There are some books that offer advice, I’m sure.

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    1. Yes! Please do have the good touches bad touches conversation soon. We had to do it after bath time one day when my little girl wanted to touch my little boy’s penis. That was nipped in the bud by a simple explanation that his penis was his, and her vagina was hers, and that no one except for themselves, mommy and daddy, and the doctor at the doctor’s office when mommy and daddy are there, was to touch it. They asked why, and I said because those parts are private, and belong to only them. That was the end of the convo. They accepted it, and we moved on. Never had a problem since.

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  6. We use the its an adult thing – age appropriate – argument in our house.

    We only really have to deal with cursing, because I do, and they are not allowed to. Again, its not cursing at them, but I do love the F-Bomb (maybe a little to much) so salty language slips on occasion. So we tell the kids that that is an adult word, we apologize for using it front of them in error, tell them they can’t do it as kids, and move on.

    Although we favor legalization of marijuana, we don’t smoke, so we will let them know it is illegal, but they can make choices as adults — hopefully we will have moved on from legal prohibition at that time.

    As for alcohol, we drink from time to time and the kids know its a drink for older people — come to think of it so is coffee at our house. When they are teens they will be allowed to have a drink at a family function, when we have secured their keys, but we would never go as far as providing alcohol for other people’s children.

    So is it strictly do as I say? I don’t think so, I think its just explaining that there is an appropriate time for things and these are not for children.

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    1. Amanda, you raise a great point. There are parents who do allow their children to engage in illegal activities under their supervision. The rationale is that they prefer they do it around them, under monitoring, than out somewhere where they can get into a lot of trouble. We call that “harm reduction” in our field, but its a heavily debated thing.

      My mom certainly had times when she allowed some friends of mine over to drink and we weren’t 21. She said she knew we’d be doing it anyway, so she wanted us to do it safer.

      Thoughts?

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      1. I don’t agree with doing it with other people’s children. Your kids, if that’s your feeling on it, is okay, but other people’s kids, no. My parents are drinkers, I don’t want it to sound like they are drunks, but we had alcohol in our house. But they did not allow us to drink with them until we were 21. But as soon as we were, they would offer it to us and our friends, no problem.

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      2. On the risk reduction – my husband, who I have been with since age 17 – enjoyed a beer at my parents at a family function before 21, but none of my other friends were ever included in that invitation.

        So with cousins or with established intimate partners we would extend the alcohol slightly beyond our children, but I couldn’t see providing for a party, that just pushes my personal boundaries too far.

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