As a parent, I know that the best way to teach my kids is to lead by example. I make sure to keep the line of communication open and have heart to hearts with my girls regularly but it’s what I do that they really remember.
Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.
-H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
I recently came across a local ad asking for a tutor. I’m bilingual and they were looking for someone to help learn a second language. I called the number to extend my services and half way through the call I realized the lady on the other end of the phone and I were under two different impressions of what the meaning of “tutor” was. In her ad, she was asking for private lessons to learn one of the two languages I speak. As we got to discussing details, it was clear studying was the last thing on her mind. She’s enrolled in a local school that teaches various different languages. There’s a waiting list for a couple of years depending on the language you want to learn. As it turns out, she has a big test coming up and she hasn’t been studying. She wanted to pay me to do her final project and all but cheat on her exam.
I wasn’t expecting that. I was genuinely looking forward to meeting with her and helping her get the satisfaction of earning her grade. In the few hours between the time I saw the ad and the time I called, I had already come up with some exercises to practice and help her study. I was disappointed I wasn’t going to be able to put my skills to use but I was also surprised she expected someone to do the work for her. She was willing to pay me to get a high enough score on her project that she could all but fail the exam and still pass. I had to unapologetically decline. She was surprised I’d turn down the easy money but I told her it wasn’t about that. Morally and ethically it wasn’t something I was in alignment with. Not only was I not in alignment with helping her cheat but I also thought of the people that were stuck on a waiting list to enroll that didn’t have a spot while she preferred to pay her way through.
I didn’t understand the point of signing up to learn another language, paying for the course, and paying someone to pass for you. At the end of the day, she’s cheating herself. She gets a certificate showing she completed the course but when she needs to put that into practice on the job, she likely won’t be able to.
When we talked on the phone to discuss the details my 8-year-old was with me and could hear my end of the conversation. She was curious because it’s not every day she hears the odd end of the conversation I was having. She asked what the call was about when I got off of the phone and I explained it to her. There were so many lessons in that situation I didn’t know where to begin. The summary of the lessons was along the lines of-
- What you do when no one is looking shows what you’re made of
- The importance of your actions being in alignment with your values
- Cheating is not acceptable (on either end of the spectrum)
- It’s better to try and fail than not try at all
After we talked, my daughter told me she was proud of me. I wasn’t expecting it and wasn’t even sure what for. She told me she was proud for not giving in and just taking the job even though it would have been nice to have the unexpected income. She also learned that there are a lot of things that are more important than money. I was so humbled to have been presented with an opportunity to show my daughter what it means to make good choices especially when no one else would know. At the end of the day, we aren’t free of the consequences of our actions. What goes around comes around and while I’m not perfect, I do try to make sure I have as much good coming back around as possible.
What are some lessons you’ve had a chance to lead by example as a parent? Feel free to share in the comments!