Most people have experienced hypocrisy at some point in their lives. The culture in which we live makes it quite easy to live double standards in our behaviors, beliefs, social life, education, work standards and even while raising our children. Are you unknowingly raising a hypocrite?
Hypocrisy is when people profess beliefs that they do not live. In other words, they say one thing, but do another. It can be seen in all areas of life. Parents may teach their children moral values that they themselves do not uphold. At school, educators teach concepts that they don’t necessarily embrace at home. CEOs expect their employees to be honest and trustworthy at work while they are dishonest in business dealings with others.
Moral values such as honesty and integrity help shape a child’s character and provide a moral compass to follow. Raising your kids with moral values may seem like a daunting task. However, your efforts will be rewarded by seeing your children mature into responsible, caring adults. Your lifestyle will play an important role in raising non-hypocritical children. If you live the values you preach, your kids are more likely to follow your example.
How would you describe a hypocrite?
Most people would describe a hypocrite as someone who is untruthful, deceptive or insincere. Hypocrites are well known for saying one thing and doing the opposite. They live pretentious, superficial lives that don’t really reflect what they believe. Phony, misleading and insincere are other common synonyms used to describe a hypocrite.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy for hypocrisy to slip into people’s lives. People may start out with strong convictions in certain areas but begin to compromise over time. A little bit of compromise and deviance from the truth may not seem like much, especially if someone has an overall good character. These weaknesses, however, can raise questions in a child’s mind, making him or her doubt the importance of the values they are being taught.
Parents who want to avoid raising a hypocrite may need to start by eliminating double standards in their own lives. When it comes to shunning hypocrisy, your children will learn more from your personal example than any other source.
The Importance of Parental Example
There’s no greater testament to a child’s upbringing than their parents’ personal example. Although principles of truth and honesty can be reinforced in school, a child’s first learning environment is the home. In fact, it can be very easy for parents to undermine ethics training at school by making unwise decisions at home. One school principal relates the following story to illustrate the importance of parental example:
“Parents spend thousands of dollars a year in tuition to send their children to our school where, along with calculus and chemistry, we are expected to teach some semblance of ethics. Then, on Sunday, the parents take their child to an amusement park and lie about his age in order to save five dollars on the admission fee. To save five bucks they destroy a $15,000 education.”
When it comes to ethics, you are your children’s main role model. The more time you spend with your children, the more they will emulate the way you speak and act. As infants, babies learn facial expressions by imitating the expressions made by parents and siblings. In like manner, they learn how to talk and behave. Unfortunately, until they are older, they cannot distinguish between good behavior and bad. Through your example, you can either instill values of truthfulness and integrity into your child’s life or tear these values down.
A Weak Sample Can Have Disastrous Results
Most parents are not inherently evil out to destroy their kids’ lives. You may, however, have weaknesses that undermine the values you want your children to learn. Such weaknesses can be detrimental to your children’s training. Here are some common examples from daily living that illustrate this concept:
- You insist your children eat healthy food while your diet consists mainly of junk food and coffee.
- You limit your children’s TV watching and insist they only watch edifying programs but set no limits or restrictions on your personal TV viewing.
- You warn your kids about the dangers of smoking and drinking, but you overindulge in both.
- You insist children share in the responsibilities of the home but don’t have time to do your part.
- You discipline your children for disrespectful, angry behavior yet sometimes display the same behavior when arguing with your spouse.
- You teach your kids that gossip is wrong, but gossip freely with your friends over a cup of coffee.
- You tell your kids that honesty is the best policy, yet engage in “little white lies” to save face or protect your job.
No parent is perfect. Being a role model 24/7 can put enormous pressure on a parent’s life. However, perfection is not the goal. Children can come to love and respect you as a parent, even when you are weak and frail. In fact, children can often learn more from your failures, if you do not try to cover them up. The best course of action is to apologize for your mistakes and try again. Through your “failures,” your children learn that mistakes are part of life and can be corrected.
Trying again means you make an effort to do better by raising your behavior standard. Your efforts to overcome hypocrisy will make a big difference in your children’s lives. Most parents are sincere in their beliefs but fall short in putting them into practice. These weaknesses can be easily viewed by your children as hypocrisy.
Many children today have an erroneous view of their parents due to their double standards or poor behavior. Double standards can destroy a parent-child relationship, causing teens to reject their parents’ authority once they grow older. Even worse, they may accept your teachings in theory, only to master the art of being a hypocrite later on in their adult lives.
How to Avoid Being a Hypocritical Parent
There are measures parents can take to avoid being a hypocrite or to eliminate double standards in their parenting style. Parenting can be hard enough without the “hypocrite” label. Here are some practical steps to help you avoid this pitfall in raising your children:
Hold Yourself Accountable
If you have weaknesses in your character, hold yourself accountable for those weaknesses rather than trying to hide from them or cover them up. Ask your family, friends and spouse to help point out areas where you need to improve and make an effort to improve. Take advice from experienced parents who know what they are talking about. Admit your mistakes and move on.
Live Up to Your Convictions
Avoid being a hypocrite – simply say what you mean and mean what you say. Live a life of conviction by following through, as much as possible, with what you say. Your children may not always agree with you but they will learn to respect you for standing up for what you believe in.
Set a Good Family Standard
Teach your kids the difference between good and bad behavior and set a good family standard. Teach them that “bad” signifies any hurtful or mean behavior toward others, rather than non-compliance with parental expectations. Once you’ve set the standard, make every effort, within reason, to abide by it.
Standards may differ from family to family, depending on their background, moral beliefs and culture. As you and your spouse will be responsible for raising your children, it’s up to you to make the decision on what standards are important to you as a family. Once your kids become teens and adults, they’ll need to choose the values they believe in and take responsibility for their own actions.
By holding yourself to a higher behavior standard, you can be sure that you’re not raising a hypocrite. Always set a better example of honesty and integrity for your children to follow.