Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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Your seed of actions and words toward your children will produce a harvest.

Salay Kekula, Author, Secrets to Reaching Your Destiny

Continuing forward, we now know some ground steps to begin to inspire greatness in those among us. We must practice what we preach and set the tone at the top with our own actions and behaviors.

Nathan Neil, Author, Inspire Greatness

All leaders, including parents and teachers will benefit from slowing down to consider how they develop children into good citizens. While adults know that socialization of children is a sacred and honorable responsibility, sometimes in the process, they lose sight of the actual consequences of their methods. Awareness of what we believe about people of any age, and how we “manage” them, and what they ultimately learn is often disjointed, misaligned with what we seek for them. In our work with people of all ages and in every kind of setting, we recommend that any action that diminishes another person’s sense of belonging and significance throws them into feelings of inferiority, which in turn inhibits the development of healthy citizens.

Consider the following, humorous but thought-provoking words written about the all-too-common quality of socialization in childhood by Erma Bombeck in 1980 and their continued relevance:

A psychologist said parents should treat their children as they would treat friends….with dignity and diplomacy.  “I have never treated my children any other way.” I told myself.  But later that night, I thought about it.  Did I really talk to my best friends like I talked to my children?  Imagine our good friends, Fred and Eleanor, came to dinner one night and….

“Well, it’s about time you two got here.  What on earth have you been doing?  Dawdling? Leave those shoes on the porch, Fred.  They’ve god mud on them.  For heaven’s sake shut the door.  Were you born in a barn?”

“So Eleanor, how have you been? Fred!  Take it easy on the chip dip or you’ll ruin your dinner.  I didn’t work over a hot stove all day long to have you nibble like some bird.”

“Heard from any of the gang lately? What’s the matter with you Fred?  You’re fidgeting.  Of course you have to go.  It’s down the hall, first door on the left.  And I don’t want to see a towel in the middle of the floor when you’re finished.

“Did you wash your face before you came, Eleanor?  I see a dark spot around your mouth.  Maybe it’s a shadow.  Is everybody hungry?  Then why don’t we go into dinner?  You all wash up.  Don’t tell me your hands are clean, Eleanor.  I saw you playing with the dog.”

“Fred, you sit over there and Eleanor, you sit with the half glass of water.  You know you’re all elbows when it comes to liquids at the table.”

“Fred, I don’t see any cauliflower on your plate.  What do you mean you don’t like cauliflower?  Have you ever tried it?  Here try a spoonful.  If you don’t like it I won’t make you finish it, but if you don’t try it you can just forget about dessert.  And sit up straight.  Your spine will grow that way.”

“Eleanor, don’t talk with food in your mouth.  I can’t understand a word you’re saying.  And for goodness sake, use your napkin….”

How did you feel as a child and how do you feel now, when people criticize or act impatient with your feelings? What happens when you hear (externally or internally), “Stop acting like a baby!” or “Get over it already!” How do you feel when anyone tries to fix you, convert you, or change you by bestowing judgment from above. Do you feel inspired and transformed for the better? When we fail to consider our actions and what they cause others, most of us on the receiving end often:

  1. React, then deny our poor behavior.
  2. Excuse poor behavior, then blame.
  3. Get defensive, then counter-attack.
  4. Become resentful, then rebel.

People don’t learn to be internally motivated and critical thinkers. Instead many remain reactive to inner and outer authority figures, remaining inept when in positions of authority themselves. They overcompensate or repeat patterns that cost everyone authenticity and healthy functioning. And the cycle of control continues. When acting without considering the consequences to others, children or other adults to not get access to wisdom, or experience healthy community. So…here are a few suggestions for your increased awareness of the power you wield and how to better influence with it:

  1. Pay attention to what you see when you act to influence others, “Hmmm… I notice my child (direct report, parishioner etc.) looks discouraged or mutinous.”
  2. Slow down and be with your feelings without reacting, avoiding or rushing them by escaping into thinking, problem solving, food, alcohol, over-working, etc.
  3. Embrace your feelings and use them in service to high purpose for yourself and those around you.
  4. Notice positive changes in yourself and those you lead or parent so that you build upon the strengths of all.

Everyone is important and a gift to the world. Consider how to use your influence to inspire joy and contribution! For continued support in learning how to be a force for positive change, check out our website for further information and reach out to us at the number and email below.

As published (fall 2023) in a modified form, from the version published nationally in the column Emotional Intelligence in the Women’s Journal, originally in February 2014, repurposed in July 2023

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