About a month ago, I was shopping at the market when I came upon a woman smacking her young son. "I don't ever want to see you hit your sister again," she warned him. Apparently, the lad had walloped his (now-crying) sibling, which led to the mother's admonition.

I don't usually interfere with parents disciplining their kids unless I think that it's crossing the line into abuse (or neglect), but I did make a mental note of the situation. If we were to dissect this scene, what part of it seemed incongruent? Surely, the mother was being reasonable in reprimanding her son for hitting his sister. But to make her point, she hit her son! I just didn't comprehend how she didn't see the inconsistency of her message, as well as the correlation between her behavior and that of her son's.

This point was drilled home to me when a friend recently sent me a video called "Children See, Children Do." It's a powerful reminder that, in every sense, parents model the way for their children. Of course, we tend to think of role models in positive terms, as people who enrich our lives and teach us important lessons and values. But in truth, role models work both ways, showing good and bad behavior that kids pick up on. You need only look at rap artists or young celebrities out of control to realize that even if you don't approve of the content of their songs or the antics of their lives, your kids quite possibly may be emulating them. How many girls thought it was "cool" when 15-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears became pregnant or when Mylie Cyrus posed provocatively on her MySpace page.

It's no different for parents. Since parents are the strongest role model a child has, what you do matters - a lot. In fact, everything that you do, your children see and, most likely, will end up doing, as well. From screaming at the car that cut you off in traffic to lying to a friend to get out of dinner plans, your child takes it all in and considers it acceptable behavior.

Modeling the way is one of my favorite parenting principles. It's a relatively simple concept to understand but far more difficult in practice. After all, as flawed souls ourselves, we do act inappropriately at times, especially when we're angry, upset or anxious. We carry prejudices and biases that at times can be hard to mask. We have behaviors - whether it's smoking, drinking or speaking negatively of others - of which we're not proud. We don't want our children to pick up on our bad habits, traits and behavior. But children take it all in and, seeing us as their primary role model, regardless of whether you tell them it's bad or not (the old "do as I say, not as I do" mentality), they're going to think it's OK to model that negative behavior or attitude.

It's hard being a parent. We all know that. But it's also a privilege. Pay attention to your less desirable conduct, habits or attitudes. They all translate into messages that your kids, as your primary audience, are receiving. If you aren't proud of them yourself, or if you don't wish for others to see these behaviors in play, chances are that you shouldn't let your children observe them either.

Step up to be the best parent you can be. And when you make a mistake, such as losing your temper or not following through on something you say you'll do, be sure to admit the mistake to your child. A child hearing his or her parent say, "I was wrong. I shouldn't have done that," is a powerful thing. It tells your child: "We're human and fallible, but we do our best, and when we fall short, we admit it." And a parent who communicates that just may be the ultimate role model.

Source: DetNews.com, MI http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080826/OPINION03/808260378