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Before I became a counsellor, while I was still going to school, I worked as a family support worker. Essentially I would pick up kids from troubled homes who social workers were involved with but hadn’t taken the children away yet, and I would spend a couple hours with them and take them back home, reporting back to the social workers who were monitoring the situation.

There was this one family with two kids; a wonderful, sensitive 7 year old boy, and a joy filled 4 year old girl. The mother and the two kids lived in a townhouse, and the father lived in another townhouse in the same complex a couple hundred yards away, but he couldn’t live with them because he beat the mother too often.

Neither of these parents had any handicaps or severe mental health issues, they were just lazy, irresponsible, and didn’t want kids interfering in their lives. Well the townhouse these kids lived in was absolutely full of dirty dishes, old scraps of leftover food, animal feces all over the floor, and the mom just sat outside in a lawn chair all day smoking cigarettes and chatting with all the other welfare mothers in the complex.

It broke my heart to take these children back to this place after taking them out and having some fun with them. Somehow while I worked with this family they were allowed to keep their children. These kids got no attention, either positive or negative, they were neglected in every way other than being fed.

But I found it hard to blame these parents, because their parents did the same thing, and when you don’t ever get a chance to leave that kind of culture, you just find it or create it wherever you go. There are always plenty of people living this way. They truly didn’t know how to do it any differently, and probably wouldn’t have wanted to anyway. Obviously they shouldn’t have brought children into the world, or so we would judge, but like I said they were irresponsible.

I knew that if these children didn’t get a change of environment, they would likely follow in their parent’s footsteps. The point I want to make about this story is that, even though we’re going to talk about various strategies for healthy parenting today, by far the most important part of parenting is how you live your life.

Because your kids won’t necessarily copy everything about your life, but they will use your example as a framework for their adult years. Amazingly, it seems like they even take on some of the characteristics or behaviours that we think they had never seen in us.

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