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The Up Side of Hypocrisy
I grew up in the “Anti-Victorian” generation of the 60s and 70s. Of all sins and crimes, hypocrisy was the worst, the ultimate of evil. A parent saying “Do as I say, not as I do” was mocked and derided. What a hypocrite! What an idiot!
So, once I became a mom, I tried to be understanding with the children when their fault was a fault I also have. I tried to be more lenient, not to punish them as much. Etc. And when I did discipline them for something I might also have done (such as losing my temper) I felt bad, guilty. I’m sure it affected the discipline.
Well, last week I woke up.
Why should I damn my children to lives filled with the same faults and vices I have?
Suddenly, “do as I say, not as I do” seemed not hypocritical but wise! Who knows better than I the price one must pay for the faults I bear? If I wish my children to have happy lives, should I not do everything I can to shield them from the very difficulties I must endure?
The first step, I realized, was to be able to require them to live up to the proper behavior without a sense of guilt on my part. This is going to be hard, but I can see some improvements already.
PS. I don’t usually post pictures of my kids, but I could not resist.
You're absolutely right. Of course, you're not perfect, but it's up to us to teach our children the right way to go...even if we fall off the path ourselves sometimes.
Terrific picture. You should find a way to turn it into a Christmas card!
It is actually kind of funny. I was thinking about this topic a few nights ago. Recently, I've been thinking about my childhood, and the kind of father I would want to be. This came to a head a few nights ago while watching "Planet Terror" (a cheesy Rodriguez/Tarantino zombie B-flick). In the middle, I asked myself one important question, "would I want any future kids I may have to watch this?" For that matter, what about "300"? The answer was, "No". I immediately felt guilty. Oddly enough, in one of the featurettes, Rodriguez was talking about his own son, who had a guest part in the role. He affirmed that no, he wouldn't be watching it, and yes, his son was spared everything but a car ride and a brief kitchen scene.
Yes, I find having children changes my habits. When my daughter became old enough to notice the 3 volumes of Austin Powers my brother-in-law had lovingly bestowed upon us, we found it a home with a single college student.
Likewise, we had to wait for a day w/o the kids to go see Sweeney Todd. And there are several action movies we would like to rent but do not want to keep around the house.
Who knows? Maybe we'll lose our taste for them altogether.
I would argue that it's not hypocrisy to discipline your children for a bad habit that you yourself are struggling with, as long as you're actually struggling to break it in yourself. It only becomes hypocrisy when you say it's OK when you do it, but that it's not OK when they do it (and it's not something that's a privilege reserved for adults that they can earn in time, like driving, or having a later bedtime).
That said, I think very few parents deliberately set out to be hypocritical about such things. Instead, most parents simply don't have the insight to see how their actions look from the outside, and thus don't realize that they're doing the same things they're scolding their children for. When the kids point it out, it looks not only self-serving, but an affront against parental authority. And even if a third party who has no stake in the matter points it out, it feels like they're butting in and meddling, and undermining the parent's authority, and thus it is perceived as an affront.
But it's useful to be able to tell the littles faithfully that you're trying to help them not suffer from a fault that has grieved Mommy so very much all of her life.
"It's wrong. Don't do it," can then be softened by the understanding hug (ala Marmee with Jo) that Mommy knows full well how hard this temptation is, and (therefore) how imperative it is both to remember to ask God for help and to fight against it!
I like that approach! Sure beats watching the kid develop your bad habits!
I know. I think I'm harder on the Mighty Mite for her bad temper than my mom was with me and mine!