Show me, Don’t tell me – My new parenting mantra

Since I began writing there has been one phrase I’ve heard  more times than any other – Show Don’t Tell! Don’t tell the reader that the girl isn’t interested in taking on another case, show them how she hangs up the phone and casually goes back to playing sudoku on her computer. Don’t tell the reader that the man thinks the woman before him is sexy as all hell, show them how he can’t take his eyes off her cleavage.

It’s only recently, however, that I realised this phrase could be applied to more than just my writing. Show Don’t Tell is my new parenting mantra.

Did you know that children of parents that smoke are more than twice as likely to take up the habit themselves? Not that I smoke, of course, but it makes you think about what other habits we might have that we might be unconsiously rubbing off on our children. It goes hand-in-hand with smacking your children and then telling them in the next breath that it’s not okay to hit. Sometimes I think we have our heads screwed on backwards.

So why am I telling you this? Well, last week I took my kids to the dentist for the first time. I was a fountain of useful information about how important it was for them to go to the dentist every 6 months, about how the dentist needs to make sure their teeth are growing correctly and that they are doing a good job brushing their teeth. I was the queen supreme of Telling. But despite all my Telling, Daughter was scared, near on terrified, and Son who takes most of his cues from his sister, was heading down the same pathway.

I couldn’t understand it, I’d told them it would be fine, why didn’t they believe me? The fact is that if you’re going to talk the talk you have to be willing to walk the walk. How could I possibly expect them to walk happily into the dentist’s office when I wasn’t willing to do the same?

Dentophobia – it’s real and I have it. I don’t like spiders and I don’t like enclosed spaces but for me they aren’t phobias. The dentist, that’s a phobia. Just sitting here writing about it has my heart pounding in my chest. 12 years, give or take a few months. That’s how long it’s been since I last went to the dentist.

As everyone does with a phobia I can explain the reasons behind my fear, it seemed like virtually everytime I went to the dentist as a kid the guy was pulling teeth out of my mouth (I’d had 5 baby teeth and 4 permanent teeth extracted before my 11th birthday), then braces for 3 years, then fillings, then my wisdom teeth extracted. Ahh!!! I think I’m having heart palpitations.

But if I want to Show my children that the dentist isn’t scary and that it really IS important to go for regular check-ups then I need to face my fears and sit in that terrifying chair that goes up and down. So I am! Tomorrow, I’m going to the dentist! Wish me luck, I’m going to need it.

What about you? Are you a believer in showing rather than telling your kids how to behave? Do you have any fears, irrational or otherwise? As always I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

5 responses to “Show me, Don’t tell me – My new parenting mantra

  1. I think you are spot on Jody. I’ve been a Stay-at-Home-Dad (an awful term, but people know what it means) for the past ten years and the writer’s mantra of ‘show not tell’ is just as important in parenting. My only problem is that now my boys are hitting teenage hood, I am now expected to go caving, abseiling and other beastly activities that I haven’t done since I was a nimble teenager… There has to be a time when one can hang up one’s boots!

  2. Great advice, never really thought to apply this wonderful writing tool to everyday life but will certainly give it a go. It’s also much better than my usual daily saying to my raggamuffins, “I’m not deaf, dial down the volume and start telling me that again.”

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