5 Things I Tell My Kids Not To Do But I Secretly Do Myself

by Nina Garcia

Image via Shutterstock

You know you’re supposed to model proper behavior. Your kids follow your actions, not your words. But no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to follow the advice you give your kids—the things you know are good for them, but somehow you secretly excuse when it comes to you. I know I’m guilty of this, big time. I’m the most well-rounded and healthiest mom based on what I tell my kids, but confession time: Come bedtime or when they’re out of sight, I’m not. These five things I tell my kids not to do but secretly do myself will prove it:

1. Overindulging in candy and sweets. When we bring home a huge stash of candy, whether from Halloween, an egg hunt or a birthday party, my kids can only have one piece of candy per day for a total of three days. Yes, you read that correctly. Out of buckets of candy, my kids eat only three, once a day for three days, and nothing more. They’ll even throw the rest in the trash. (Or they’ll make a poster out of Sunkist wrappers—hey, at least they get creative!)

Meanwhile, come 8 p.m. when the kids are in bed, I’m rummaging through their stash, eyeing the peanut butter chocolates and candy corn. I feel terrible just typing that. (No I don’t.)

2. Skipping precious ZZZ’s. Speaking of 8 p.m., that’s the time my eldest goes to sleep. The 2-year-old twins go to sleep even earlier at 7:15 p.m. If I followed my own advice about getting enough sleep to face the next day with energy, I too would go to bed at a decent hour.

Except I don’t. I’ve tried giving myself a curfew to shut down the computer or close the book by 9 p.m. so I can shower and get ready for bed. Unfortunately, I keep extending the time, so it’s not unusual for me to fall asleep at 11 p.m. (only to wake up at 5:45 a.m. the next morning).

My 5-year-old doesn’t let me off the hook, either. When I yawn the next day and say I’m tired, he says, “You should probably go to sleep early, Mama.”

3. Binge-watching. I’m currently tearing through The Office (this is not helping my 9 p.m. curfew, clearly). I’m convinced the producers made the episodes short so I can tell myself, over and over again, to watch just one more.

Keep in mind, this is the same person so strict with her kids’ screen time that my eldest didn’t watch television until he was 3 years old. The twins, being the second children, got away with watching at 2 years old. No smartphone, iPad or any other screens for these kiddos. They get to watch at most one episode of The Magic School Bus per day (yes, I’m bringing it back).

4. Using language that would warrant a PG-13 rating. First things first: My kids don’t actually curse, but my eldest has said some words that made me do a double take. For instance, he’ll say, “Bam!” which sounds just like me saying “Damn!” So I tell him to find another word besides “Bam!” or “Jeezus!” or even “poopy head.”

Yet here I am, saying all those things (with a more colorful version of “poopy head”). I usually manage to mutter them under my breath, but the kids are listening. They didn’t start saying “Jeezus!” out of the blue, that’s for sure.

5. Vegging out. Children learn best through play and activity. Even if I never told my kids to be active and have fun, they would do so on their own. I’m so glad they have the energy and excitement for playing and being active, because I’m lucky if I can take a 30-minute walk once a week.

Sure, I’ll go through motivated spurts to work out when my doctor tells me to lose a few pounds or when I learn my good cholesterol is low. I’ll get extra motivated, even buying new workout gear to get pumped. I’ll run laps, do workout videos, take a fitness class. Then two weeks later, I’m back to the same habits. I incorporate workouts into my errands like walking to the store during lunch. I love me my occasional dance class. But it’s a shame I’m not consistent with setting a good example about exercise.

Lest you think I’m a terrible example for my kids, I’m proud of a few things I do model well, including reading to my kids often throughout the day, eating healthy food (minus the candy), treating others kindly, working hard and doing my best, enjoying outdoor and nature adventures, and spending time with family and friends.

As parents, we want the best for our kids. This is why we give them the organic peach while we eat the processed crap, or why we make sure they get a good night’s rest even though we’re still awake with our laptops close by. We want to instill good habits and help them avoid the mishaps we’ve gone through.

Hopefully, I’ll be more mindful about following my own advice, even just focusing on one goal at a time. I can limit screen time to 30 minutes a day, exercise for an hour or go to bed earlier. Maybe I can then start following my own advice and take care of myself the way I do my kids.