One overarching mistake most parents make when raising children

Armen Hareyan's picture
Parenting Mistakes Parents Make

What to do with kids and how to raise them well. This is constant question we hear many parents asking when complaining about the behavior of their children. When will we ask what to do with ourselves?

This story is originally published at One Common Mistake Most Parents Make and Must Avoid When Raising Children at

Are we so good and we don't know what to do with our children?

Remember. Apple doesn't fall away from an apple tree and the one who doesn't know how to play a violin won't be able to teach another person. We should remember that what helps to raise and educate a child is the atmosphere in which the child grows not our parental instructions.

The following is a general paraphrasing from a segment of a lecture by a well known Russian Orthodox theologian and widely popular Christian pedagogue, professor and lecturer from Moscow Orthodox Theological Seminary Alexei Osipov, which he spoke in the city of Zhukovsky in 2006.

We permit ourselves too much and too many inappropriate things in front of our children. We invite people for dinner and speak bad things about our guests after they leave. We snitch behind their backs. We wrongly assume kids are still small and don't understand that these things are bad and we shouldn't do them. But then the next day we proudly tell our friends how smart our kids are. Wait a minute. Are they silly or smart?

When we want they are smart, but when we don't want to accept it they are not.

The most important condition for successful upbringing of our children is primarily the family atmosphere in which they grow. If you want your child to grow as a decent person, you should give him the example of decency. You, as a parent, should yourself set that example for them.

When they see how we praise those whom we need and how we call bad names after those whom we just called friends at the dinner table. What are they supposed to conclude? When they see how we lie and deceive others for personal gains, all these things make our children to grow in a dirty atmosphere.

But if you ask parents? They call themselves good people. "We don't lie, we don't betray one another, everything is OK at work. We do honest jobs," they say. Yet, why do our children grow with bad behavior? Where is this coming from?

Tell these people that there are problems in their behavior and they will probably tear you to pieces.

Here is how good we are.

We come home and turn on TV and God knows what is being shown. "Don't watch it. Go to your room. This program is not for children," we tell our kids. And poor children are wondering, how come this program is good for you parents and not for me? You see the double standard here? How come non-child or Rated R programs are are bad for children but good for you?

We tell our children not to use bad words and we slap on their faces and swear in the house.

We watch on TV God knows what and hope that our children remain clean in heart. Is this possible? How many times we have heard parents and guardians doing things in front of children about which I am even ashamed to talk about here, but they think their small children don't understand. We, ourselves, are busy with who knows what, and hope that our children grow clean in heart. This is impossible fellow parents, just impossible.

Is it that difficult to understand that it's impossible for a discourteous parent to raise a good child with no problems. It's not difficult to understand this with our minds, but very difficult to understand this with our will power.

The first starting point is to being to educate and change your own behavior. Yet, the difficulty here is to refrain from bad behavior and bad habits.

I can't refrain from not eating too much on the table. I can't refrain from not drinking too much alcohol, I can't refrain from bad table habits. I can't refrain from using bad words. I can't refrain from watching programs on TV that I don't want my children to watch.

We want to have all of these and in the same time want our children to be like angels. How is this possible?

Children take the general spirit that reigns in the house. What are they supposed to learn from this life when they see that parents say one thing, but act differently?

Therefore, dear parents, you should not be surprised, when your children go to school or play with friends on the street (where the atmosphere may be even worse) and all of these undesirable behavioral tendencies triple and quadruple. It all starts from the family. From you parents.

"A family must be a type of a fortress against those bad influences, which our children, unfortunately, can't avoid experiencing in schools and on the streets as they grow up," says Russian Orthodox Theologian Aleksei Osipov.

We are charged as parents to prepare our children against outside negative influences with personal good examples. If you are a Christian, even more, you are charged to show your children a good personal Christian example.

Give and show your children good examples of honesty, forgiveness, kindness not only when you meet people face to face, but in general. Your child will see it and take it from you. Only then your child will understand what is real honesty, what is being a good individual and what is decency.

One fellow in Scotland complained about teen behavior in the country. When asked how is the TV in your country he replied its garbage. Nothing good. When asked then why don't you throw it away and live enjoy a life without TV? He replied oh, no, I can't live my life without TV.

In other words I want my child to be good, but I will not give up anything from myself, to set a good example for my child. I cannot make these types of sacrifices even if they are for the sake of my children. I already make a good sacrifice my providing for their lives, providing a house and and feeding them daily. But don't most people do the same for their pets and farmers for their animals?

We need to make real sacrifices from our bad habits and behavior for the sake of our children. It's first of all good for us as they will change first of all our own lives and the lives of people around us. And I am not talking about financial and material sacrifices. These are probably the easiest sacrifices we can make. The difficult part is to make sacrifices that changes ourselves first of all. So our children see that when what is good is good for everyone for all the time. What is not good, is not good for anyone anytime. No double standards for any group, even if there is a big age divide.

For Christian and not Christian Parents
You can start changing things by taking small and real steps. Find time to pray together with your children daily. Even if you are not a Christian or a religious person, family prayer daily has an enormous benefit. That benefit is the time when your family pauses for few moments from the hectic pace of the day and has few relaxing moments with each other, says Aleksei Osipov. You have probably heard the saying that a family which prays together stays together. This is so true. Prayer helps family members to pause for a moment and understand who they are and who they should be. Prayer is a type of a self analysis. In prayer we know what the real ideal for a human being is and we know who and where we are in reality. Family prayer will help to view yourself in an objective way. You do need to see that you are not healthy because of your bad examples to your children. You do need to see it so you can turn to God and say Lord have mercy. Even if you are not a Christian or religious, please, at least read a good book together. Read some good stories out loud for your family members and talk about it. Stop from this world and turn off the TV, computers and smartphones and have some few precious moments for yourself, for your common values. Values, to which you all will follow and set right examples for your children.

In the evening, as the busy days comes to its conclusion, family gathers together. All electronic devices are turned off. And you pray together and you teach your children to that self analysis. This is your time. You need these relaxing moments. Even if it's only for 10 minutes. this strengthens your family. Makes the family bond stronger. This has proven to make a big difference in the lives of many families and their children.

Set good examples for your children while you can. When they grow, others in schools and colleges will do for them. And many of them will be examples you don't want your child to follow.