What crossing the road teaches our children

I was in the city last week with some of my colleagues and as we sat in the RedBalloon mini (Ruby) at the lights we watched a mother try to cross the road against the lights. A truck whipped around the corner and it was inches from calamity. After the truck passed she did it again, this time successfully crossing the road.

What lesson did she just teach her four-year-old? (More than 200 pedestrians are hit by vehicles in Sydney’s CBD every year.)

So let’s fast forward this child’s life – she is now a teenager and she has no respect for any authority. She does not listen to her teachers and she definitely doesn’t listen to her parents. In fact, worse, she treats them with utter disdain.

In the moment that this mother ran across the road against the red light she taught her daughter to break the rules and not listen to authority. She said ‘our personal needs are more important than the rules of society’.

My blood boils when I hear parents whine about their unresponsive rude teenagers… like it is all the kid’s fault. We need to take a good hard look at ourselves and say ‘how am I responsible for our kid’s disdain for authority?’

My father used to say to me ‘Do as I say not what I do’. I thought it was rubbish then, and I still do. We all need role models and people to look up to – especially our kids.

I was fascinated that when I was sharing in the TEDx presentation about my daughter and the great first gift she gave me when she was a baby… then I began to share that she is now 14. The audience laughed anticipating that I would say some cliché about ‘teenagers’ in fact what I shared was the sheer joy of being a parent of an articulate, talented, funny, amazing young person. I could not help but let my emotion spill into my words.

People are a reflection of what we think of them, and how we are with them. Please watch the example you set for young ones (whether they are your children – or other people’s), they will be teenagers and young adults soon enough. I’m not saying I have it handled – I have as many challenges as any parent. But I will never, ever speak poorly of my children or deride them – because it is up to me to teach them values and live by them.

And I wait for the green man – even when my kids are not around.

Naomi Simson is considered one of Australia’s ‘Best Bosses’. She is an employee engagement advocate and practices what she preaches in her own business. RedBalloon has been named as one of only six Hewitt Best Employers in Australia and New Zealand for 2009 and awarded an engagement scorecard of over 90% two years in a row – the average in Australian businesses is 55%. RedBalloon has also been nominated by BRW as being in the top 10 Best Places to Work in Australia behind the likes of Google. One of Australia’s outstanding female entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker inspiring people on employer branding, engagement and reward and recognition. Naomi writes a blog and is a published author – and has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded – RedBalloon.com.au.

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