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What We Teach Our Kids

The title may imply this post is about the direct actions we as parents take to educate our children about certain subjects, following the logic I have laid out in previous posts. But I want to take a slightly different angle and write about the subconscious lessons we teach our children indirectly.

Allow me to start with a personal story that occurred in my house, with my wife, early in our marriage.

My wife made it known that she does not like me coming home late for dinner. As it is for many husbands, initially I did not fully appreciate the dislike, so I kept coming home late and not letting her know. Eventually she decided to greet me upon arrival one day. She stood outside the door when I got home from golf and told me that she has spent all this time cooking and the least I could do is be home at the time I said or tell her I am not.

In this example, I experienced what I call early marriage “spousal conditioning” – explicit and pronounced declaration of what is not acceptable so there is no ambiguity or uncertainty then or later by the other spouse. At which point, the response from me was to not be home late or let her know if I am (aka “happy wife, happy life”).

I will now transition to a hypothetical scenario (i.e. an unnamed husband/father and wife/mother).

So, if the husband, knowing her expectations (with respective “spousal conditioning” for added emphasis), is supposed to be home at 6:30 but doesn't come in until 8- 8:30 at night, and doesn't call - why would he do that? There could be a number of reasons, but I will only note a couple. He could just be stupid - meaning he cognitively can't grasp the concept. Or, he could be trying to piss her off, jab at her or trying to frustrate her and make her feel “less than” to feed his ego. The latter is just being an egotistical a** and testing her, whether actively or passively.

Switching viewpoints to the wife. If she accepts that response and tolerates that multiple times after she made it demonstrably clear what does that say about her? Is she that passive? Does she have an exceptionally high tolerance level? Or does she have low self-esteem? What alternative tactics can she employ beyond complicity? These are questions for the respective spouse to answer.

Now let me clarify something - the story is not about the couple. Actually, this story is about the kids. Because a few things are likely happening – the couple is teaching or reinforcing, the egotistical inconsiderate a** part in their kids. Alternatively, their enabling the passive highly tolerable (arguably unhealthy) aspect of the woman/wife. Conversely, for the husband, he is feeding into the inconsequence of the wife/women. Acknowledging these characteristics are not genetic, the couple is putting a portion of whatever applies into the kids, conditionally. Because that is what your kids are seeing, experiencing and passively learning.

There are several implications, the central point being whatever the relationship is between the parents, and however that is portrayed to the children – whether cutting each other off in conversations, excluding one in important decisions or belittling the other, the children will pick it up. Your living and lifestyle are directly or indirectly passing down attributes to your kids. How you interact with each other, the tone of conversations and the level of respect demonstrated. This is what is taught subconsciously and indirectly, and has a profound impact, arguably, similar to the conscious and direct lessons. And I submit, you will have to reconcile those “hidden” lessons at some point socially, academically and/or professionally with your children as they grow up.

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