Do as I Say, Watch as I Do

Happy mother with two daughters

One thing that holds true across all environments: whether you are at work, school, or at home, is that people are going to watch your behavior. Like it or not, they are forming an opinion about the things you say and do. Especially if the two things contradict one another. You can talk all you want about being a good person or a great employee, but if you don’t also walk the walk, you will not get the results you are looking for. You cannot simply hope that others are going to follow the example of your words. People want someone to inspire them with words, and they are looking for someone who will lead them by example. It is your job as a mentor to be sure that your actions and words send a clear message that you would be proud for someone else to emulate.

If parents don’t already know this before they have children, they learn the lesson quickly. It only takes one unprompted swear word from their child before they realize, possibly regretfully, that someone has been hanging on their every word. If a mother tells her son that hitting is bad yet spanks him when he is naughty, he is receiving contradictory messages and is going to behave the same way. Children rely on what they see and experience instead of what they hear, no matter how much we may wish otherwise.

Being an older brother or sister means that there are a smaller set of eyes on you at all times. If they see you disregarding your homework as stupid, they will start to imitate that behavior and perhaps miss out on more fundamental skills that you have already mastered. And if you’re reading this blog, we are going to assume that this is not your intention. We’re not saying you are not entitled to these opinions, of course you are! Your homework may very well be stupid. It happens sometimes! However, when you say these things within earshot of someone who admires you at an impressionable age, they will mimic what they see. No one expects you to jump for joy at every assignment or constantly say how great you think homework is and how it builds character. But you should keep critical opinions that you do not want your younger brother or sister to copy to yourself. Feel free to vent those feelings to a parent or a peer who can listen and provide guidance if necessary.

On the other hand, if you remind your sister that it is her job to give the family dog clean water every morning and your job to walk the dog, be sure that she sees you doing your part. She will be much more likely to remember her own tasks when she sees you taking your obligation seriously. It sounds like such a simple thing but setting an example goes a long way. If you are doing or saying something that you wouldn’t like your younger sister or brother to copy—with the exception of age restricted activities like driving or having different bed times/curfews—decide if it is something you yourself should be doing or saying, and if so, wait until they aren’t around.

When you lead by example in actions and words, you will be the perfect example of someone worth living up to. And that’s pretty great!