Ask Mrs Manners: Are You a Hypocrite?

Cynthia Dermody

hypocritical parentsThe toddler years are the perfect age to start teaching your kids manners and good habits. And MrsManners aka: Angela Pitrie, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern Family and, is here to help.

Dear MrsManners,

Am I a "hypocrite" parent? I don't tell my kids they have to make their bed in the morning, because I don't. But I DO tell my kids not to bite their nails, even though I do.

There are some things that I either:

1) Do but know I shouldn't -- and know that my kids shouldn't either;

2) Don't do myself -- but know that would be better for my kids to do.

My SO feels it is never okay to be a hypocrite, even if you are trying to teach your children better. I try not to be a hypocrite but sometimes I think it's necessary when raising children. -- w0manchild

MrsManners says:

When I read your question, I couldn't help think of my mantra: Be the person you want your child to become.Children are like little mirrors; sometimes what you see staring back at you isn't exactly what you wanted to see and maybe it warrants fixing. But, then again, maybe it doesn't. 

Use both opportunities as an example.

I'm glad to hear that you don't make your kids make the bed because you don't. This would be a silly one to be hypocritical about. If an unmade bed doesn't bother you, you can turn it into teachable moment: Life is too short to make beds; there are better things to do with your time. (Every home is different, of course -- a made bed could be VERY important in someone else's house -- I'm just talking about the w0manchild's home right now.)

You are right; biting nails is a bad habit. It tends to be an outlet for nervous energy, and once you start it's hard to stop. You definitely need to help your children NOT do this. Explain and show them why it is a bad thing, using yourself as the example. This is a great opportunity to learn about self control, while they are still young enough to curb bad habits easily.

Too much of any one thing can be a problem, even biting your nails. However, if this should be something you are seriously passionate about and you want them to learn not to do it, then the best way to do that is to stop biting your nails. (I have heard from recovered nail biters that using nail polish is a great deterrent.) 

So now that we tackled the fluffier parts of the question, let's talk about whether it is really okay or not to be a hypocrite when it comes to being a parent. Personally, I think the word is too harsh sounding. Is it really hypocrisy to want your children to make better choices than you may have made? Were our grandparents and great grandparents being hypocritical when they wanted their children to go to school and learn things that they themselves didn't know?

They possessed the moral belief that their children should be educated when they themselves were not. So, yes, I think that sometimes it's worth being a hypocrite. But with everything? Definitely not.

Life is messy, it's not black and white. This is, in my humble opinion, one of those crazy gray areas. You have to weigh each situation out as it comes up. Is it something that you think you can change about yourself first? I think that you should choose to embrace the opportunity for positive change whenever you can. When faced with whether you will be a hypocritical parent or not, see if this is an opportunity for YOU to become a better person, too. It may prove to not only be a great lesson for your children, it may be the best example you could ever set for them and you will get the benefit of feeling great about yourself, too.

Keep those questions coming ladies and thank you for taking the time to read this!

Angela W. Pitre, aka MrsManners

Past Ask Mrs Manners columns:

Pushy Toddlers

Taming the Messy Eater

How to Have Well Behaved Toddlers

My Son Won't Stop Touching Other Moms' Breasts!

Is Shyness Impolite?

Stop Peer Pressure Early

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