I hang my keys up on a hook on the side of our hutch inside the front door when I come home. My wife, Evelyn, or I make our bed every day. We put our coats (and hats) in the closet when we’re finished wearing them. We do the laundry at least twice a week (more, if needed). We throw trash and recycling in the proper containers.
You would think that, after years of observing our behaviors, our daughter Karlyn would have picked up on these routine habits, based on the philosophy that children learn by watching the elders in their lives.
In Karlyn’s case, nothing could be further from the truth. This is something I’ve wanted to get off my chest for years, but didn’t have a proper vehicle for putting it in writing until now. Since virtually nobody knows yet about this site, I feel I can be totally up-front about my opinion on learning by example; simply: it doesn’t work.
I could address my birth children in one area here, and that’s their spiritual lives. I kept hoping against hope that they would break out of the mold of the typical (or, should I say, stereotypical) “preacher’s kids” and continue their church attendance once they were on their own, following the example that was set for them during their childhood years. But, it seems, they, too, apparently chose to feel that they were pressured into going to church instead of picking up on the deeper meaning/significance of what worship is about, and, as a result, no longer darken the doors of a church for whatever reasons they’ve come to, just like the majority of P. K.’s who believe they have to prove that they’re not “goody-goodies.”
With Karlyn, we’re still in the stage of learning lessons at home. Everything I mentioned at the top of this essay is something she has pushed back against in one form or another. While she may not have keys to hang up, she doesn’t bother putting anything away in its designated place either. The front door threshold is a line that divides the outside world from the inside world, and once she has crossed it, anywhere inside (usually just inside the door on the living room floor) is fair game for dropping her things: book bag, hoodie, school papers, etc.
She rarely (sometimes, but almost never) makes her bed; and if Evelyn or I didn’t launder the sheets, they would never get clean. If she unwraps a treat, the cellophane is left on whatever level surface is closest to her. Even if we ask her to pick it up and put it where it’s supposed to go, it almost always stays there until Evelyn or I get tired of waiting and throw it away ourselves.
And, lights! While she’s gotten better at turning out her bedroom ceiling light, it’s not at all uncommon to find lights on in her bathroom, closet, the hallway, etc. Our electric bill has been thru the roof this winter as it is. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been had I not made regular treks thru the house hitting light switches.
So, don’t tell me about learning by example. Unless you have a willing student — which we don’t — that philosophy is bunk.