David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

Super Model

Back 40 years ago when I started doing this work and was convinced I knew everything, I would offer parenting advice–typically of the unsolicited variety: “treat your kids like adults;” “treat your kids like children;” “pay attention when they fuss;” “ignore their tantrums,”

I should have been taken out behind the barn and shot. And did I mention that I was pontificating about how to raise kids before I had become acquainted with any of my four children, had yet to change a diaper or spend half a morning looking for a matching pair of socks.

Youth is wasted on the young, money is wasted on the wealthy, and perhaps well-intentioned 20-year-old middle school teachers shouldn’t be allowed to blather on about how to raise kids. NASA didn’t call me for advice about how to shoot up rockets. Why did I imagine that my suggestions about how to get middle schoolers to do their math homework would be helpful.

I have since listened to families as they have shared their concerns about how to help their kids love math, be admitted to the right college, stay sober, put a plate in the dishwasher. I have learned that even when I am significantly compensated for my thoughts on how to bring up healthy children in this toxic world, folks are not necessarily falling all over themselves to implement my guidance. It seems we live in the age of “yes, but.”

Which keeps me thinking. How do we inspire our beloved children, deeply influence, to accept our values? It’s easy to get kids to do what we say. Coercion is effective if not long lasting. I am becoming increasingly convinced that for fundamental, meaningful change, for kids to internalize our suggestions, there’s a whole other level: The kids have to believe in us to believe us. 

If you have told him 100 times, and he still doesn’t listen, who is it that has a learning difference?

Or as we say in Families Anonymous, don’t do things, be things.

So, here’s my more recent idea. Model the behaviors in yourself that you want to see in your children. If you have to repeatedly tell your kids, what to do, chances are it’s already too late. The weather is lovely, strong breeze, great visibility, everything’s going fine a person passing the 20th floor could suggest–having jumped out a window ten stories above. In this example, the pavement is referred to as the natural consequent for imperfect decision making.

Kids have to want to listen to you. You listen to the rabbi/pastor/imam at your synagogue/church/mosque more than you attend to the speaker at the house of worship down the block. You listen to your financial advisor more than you pay attention to some pump and dump scheme suggested by an anonymous somebody online. Rapport, connection, respect, interest. Call it what you will. Would it be oversimplifying to say that your kids have to like you before they want to be like you? Meaningful change is unlikely to be effected from a random interaction with an unknown stranger. If your kids don’t enjoy your company—mommy’s always at work, daddy’s always angry—aren’t they more likely to marry a rock musician and move to California.

None of which is to say that having your kids like you is about doing what they want—ice cream for breakfast, no homework or chores, ignoring family functions. But if your kid asks to throw a ball with you, the answer has to be I’ll get the gloves. And if your kid wants to study literature rather than math, a trip to the library is preferable to a lecture about high paying engineering jobs.

That’s what I’ve got after listening to hundreds of families—kids who like their parents will want to be like their parents. Check back with me in another 40 years. Hopefully, I’ll have something else of consequence to report by then.

Picture of David Altshuler 2

David Altshuler 2

2 thoughts on “Super Model

Comments are closed.

Copyright © David Altshuler 1980 – 2024    |    Miami, FL • Charlotte, NC     |    (305) 978-8917    |    [email protected]