As a child I often heard the saying, “Do as I say and not as I do”. The problem with this advice is that most youth see better than they hear. Children often copy the behavior of their parents or other adults in their lives.
In December of 2003 I took interest in a survey that was published by the Association of Alaska School Boards with data from phone interviews conducted by Ivan Moore Research titled Grading Grown-upsAlaska Style, the purpose of the survey was to identify and measure:
1. What adults believe are the most important behaviors for adults to do that will help children and youth become successful;
2. To what extent they believe most adults in their community act on these beliefs;
3. General perceptions adults have of local schools, youth and media reporting;
4. Awareness of resources for children and youth, and
5. Settings where adults know and support youth.
The resulting data was no surprise to me. An excerpt from the report states, “Adults generally agree on which behaviors are important when it comes to meaningful relationships with youth. However, while some adults engage in these behaviors, many do not.” Statistics showed that:
“91 percent of adults believe it is very important to encourage youth to take school seriously and do their best in school, yet only 47 percent of adults actually do it.
“91 percent of adults believe it is very important to teach youth respect for all people regardless of race, culture or religion, yet only 35 percent of adults actually do it.
“90 percent of adults believe it is very important to teach youth basic values like honesty, respect, cooperation and responsibility, yet only 26 percent of adults actually do it.”
After reading this report I had to take inventory of my own actions as they relate to the youth I interact with. Do I smile and look that youth in the eye, the one with green hair, and say hello? Do I say “Thank You” for the good deeds the youth of my community do each day? Do I encourage students to persist to do well when they have had a bad day? Are my children’s friends welcome and safe in my home? Do I interact with them or ignore them?
Do I give honest praise and withhold judgment until I hear the “whole story”.
As adults we have a profound effect on our youth, positive and negative. Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school day. It continues as they interact with adults after school and on weekends. We are their teachers and mentors also.
We, the adults of our communities, need to set the examples for our youth by doing and not just saying.
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