Rabbi Shalom Arush in his book on Jewish education says children don’t learn from what you tell them to do but by observing what you yourself do. Fine. But why don’t they learn additionally from what they are told? Why won’t they improve at least somewhat? Rabbi Arush doesn’t explain.
Allow me to add my two cents:
When children see a parent saying one thing and doing another, e.g., angrily criticizing the child’s anger, they learn two distinct lessons, wholly unconnected in their little mind:
- Be angry yourself. Also:
- Warn your own future charges against anger…
Their minds are uncomplicated. Children don’t grasp the concept of (parental) hypocrisy or bare oral instruction. And as for the second part about words, there is no need to wait until they grow up. One can see children mimicking their parents by telling their dolls exactly what their parents tell them.
When the parent expresses confusion at the child’s failure to absorb the lesson, the child has no idea what the problem is. I am copying Mommy and Daddy’s behavior to the letter; what more could they want?!
This doesn’t mean parental perfection. Even if the parent is merely trying to improve his anger, praying for calm, etc., this, too, will be obvious to the little spying copycat.