The list of these queries is long, perhaps endless. I do know that I feel slightly better when I am able to describe the values that are driving our choices. I also feel better and feel like there is the possibility of lasting impact, when I know that I'm consistent with my behavior and there's. For example, when the boys were little, I would tell them to get out and exercise, enjoy the fresh air, get away from the t.v. If the value and life lesson that I wanted them to remember was physical health and active living then I should have shared that message from somewhere else other than the couch. A couple of years ago, I started going to the gym on a regular basis and invited my youngest son to be my gym buddy. That was a great turning point in our relationship. It turned out that he could hold me accountable to what I said was important AND I got to interact with him using our bodies and just being together instead of a bunch of talky talk. Similarly, our boys are both very sensitive to other people and pretty appreciative of what they have in life. I know and they have confirmed this for me, that it is a result, in part, of them having two parents who work in social services. We've invited them to volunteer in a variety of ways since they were 4 or 5. They also see us caring about other people in little ways, donating to causes that are important to us, bringing food to sick friends or shoveling the walk for our elderly neighbor.
We talk about our values. We live them out in visible, real ways. We invite them to live them out with us. We still don't know what all will "stick" with them but we can rest easier knowing that we weren't hypocritical or offering mixed messages. They will very likely live out what we try to teach in ways different from us. They can make different choices and still retain the values that we shared. I firmly believe that what we do has just as much impact, if not more, than what we say. Arrested Development has a song that I LOVE called, "Mama's Always On Stage".
"Words of wisdom should be ways of wisdom!
That's exactly how u must walk.
Life's too short your missions too dire.
Nurture another mind before yours expires.
...But mama don't sleep your lifes a turnin' page mama's
stage!" (By Speech)
They are watching, learning and remembering.