Often we think our kids don’t listen to us or care what we think. But the truth is that they’re always watching and listening to us, and the examples we set go a long way toward the men and women they will become.
The Latino Leadership Council recently finished producing a fotonovela that, among various topics, deals with a teenage son’s disrespectful attitude towards his mother and other female figures in his life. This story line made it to the fotonovela because a lot of our promotores and promotoras came across families who were living with this problem. In many cases, they found out, the sons were to some degree mimicking their fathers’ behavior. A son would see his father talk down to his mom or talk disrespectfully about other women and the son would start exhibiting those same behaviors with women in his life, including his mother.
The father may not have been behaving this way intentionally or maliciously—or even been aware of the behavior. In many cases the father was just mirroring the behavior modeled for him in his youth. But until the father becomes aware of his own behavior and the example he’s setting, it will be difficult for the son to take a different path.
The same goes across other aspects of our kids’ lives. What is our attitude toward alcohol or other drugs? Do we drink in excess while at home? Do we allow our children to go to friends’ homes, where they drink or take illicit drugs? Do we trivialize the effects of alcohol? Do we laugh when our friends, our spouse or even we get drunk? And most importantly, are our kids watching our behavior? You be they are.
Is it any surprise then when our kids start drinking at a young age and don’t believe there will be any serious consequences to their actions? After all, they’ve learned it from us.
Also, what about the type of music we listen to and the movies and TV shows we watch? Do they celebrate violence, alcohol or drug use? Are we listening to corridos that exalt drug production and trafficking? Rap music that promotes alcohol use and violence? What are we watching and exposing our kids to?
Do we show our kids that we value education? I know many of us may not have received the level of education we would have wanted, but we can still instill in our kids a yearning for education and personal development. We can help them with their homework or find a good role model to help them with homework, encourage them when they do well, support and counsel them when they don’t and show them that they can always do better than we did, regardless of our own level of success. We can model a sense of ongoing self-development by finding ways to learn new skills and knowledge ourselves. Take a community college class, a nutrition or dance class, work toward your GED or show interest in the topics your kid is learning at school. Show them that learning is an ongoing process and that it enriches our lives.
Often times we complain that there aren’t enough Latino leaders in our community. But you can start by being a leader in your own home. Model positive behaviors and your kids will follow. It will do wonders for your kid’s future, your family and our community.