An Example of Yourself

By Jennifer Huget
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Here I go, kids, off to yoga class!"

(There my kids sit, watching TV on the couch.)

"Here I am, guys, eating my healthy breakfast!"

(There they go, off to school, having eaten no breakfast at all.)

The concept of modeling -- demonstrating through your own actions the behaviors you'd like your kids to adopt -- is firmly entrenched in child psychology and child-rearing realms. Whether or not they use the word "modeling," just about any parenting guide will advise you to set a good example through your actions: to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

In my family, modeling has often paid off. My husband and I strap on our seat belts, and we hear the two clicks from the back seat as our kids do the same. We're both reasonably polite in our dealings with others, and our son and daughter show respect, too -- at least, that's what we hear from neighbors and friends.

But as the two hurtle toward and through adolescence, I'm noticing some resistance. Yoga? They'd sooner die than be caught doing down dog. Read the classic novels I devoured in my youth? You've got to be kidding!

Chatting with my friends and fellow moms, I find this experience is pretty common. I even called up Jared Fogle, the famous former fat guy who lost 245 pounds by eating little other than food from Subway. Fogle, whose stunning weight loss was featured a couple of weeks ago in a column by Sally Squires, says his parents -- his family-physician dad, his preschool-teacher mom -- set good examples.

"There was not a lot of junk food in the house," Fogle told me, "and they cooked fairly healthy meals."

"Still," he says, "I was a hardheaded kid. I didn't care enough to change. It was easier to go the other direction."

"My dad went on jogs," Fogle recalls. "I'm literally watching him warm up. He goes and jogs, comes back, and I'm still watching TV."

Sound familiar?

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