What We Teach Our Kids When We Don’t Know They Are Watching

I started this terrible wonderful habit last year.

All three of my kids started a new school and there were some bumpy days in the beginning.

So on the first Friday of the first week, I took my kids to a darling little hometown bakery near our house. And we celebrated with a cookie.

The next week it was a brownie.

A few weeks after that it was a cake pop.

It became a sweet tradition.

And well, many Fridays later and my pants won’t button. It’s a weighty problem.

What we teach our kids when we dont know they are watching n

So a few Friday’s ago, I was backing out of my spot and looking behind me and not at the lovely Mercedes next to me and I scratched the whole side of the car.

That is a bad feeling.

I slowly pulled into my spot (straighter this time) and told my kids to follow me to look for the owner. The car was parked in front of Massage Envy, next to the bakery. So, yeah, I immediately felt worse, of course.

I was about to stress out someone who was having a massage. 

I told the gals behind the desk what happened and described the car. They said, yes, the owner was having a massage and I wrote my name and number on a piece of paper. And then the receptionist said, “I can’t believe you came in to find her. You know you could have left. She would have never know.”

The other girls nodded their heads and encouraged me to throw away the paper.

I looked at my kids looking at us, listening and watching what I would say.  “I would know. My kids would know.”

They were impressed with how “good” I was.

Really? This is what it’s come to in our world? Being honest about hitting someone’s car when they aren’t looking makes me a good person. Huh.

We left and I told my kids it would have been wrong for me to drive away without telling the truth. I fear there is an entire generation of kids who don’t take responsibility for their actions and wave the “it wasn’t my fault” banner.

Say what you need to say. And do what you say you’ll do. It’s called integrity.

Friends of mine from another country, who are now new Americans made this observation to me, “We’ve noticed that when you mention a new idea or cause, many Americans are so excited! They think it’s a wonderful idea and they want to do everything to help! and share! and give! But many do nothing. All the excitement ends when it’s time to show up. In our country, not many people are interested in new ideas, but at least you know where they stand.

I was embarrassed because they spoke the truth.

Sure things come up and plans change. That’s life. But when we make a habit of hiding the truth or not following through with what we’ve said we will do, we are teaching our children to do the same.

Integrity is something we teach our kids when we don’t know they are watching.

Sometimes we use words.


  1. 2

    Catherine says

    It amazes me the few that are honest anymore, I have witnessed a few people hit cars and take off. Thank you for being honest. Separately though the second part resonates with me even louder. I am a part of a working community, church community, school community and just part of the community in general and am continually frustrated and disappointed in the numbers that jump on the band wagon of a new idea or cause and then when you get to the planning and hard work phase the numbers dwindle to one or just a few of us. I have almost become burned out and wanted to quit a few times myself over this.

  2. 5

    Jenny says

    In a different state at a different time, I was the car hit and dented when someone tried to fit their car between mine and the cart corral at Target. A man came up to me in the parking lot and told me someone had just hit my car and that they had pulled out and parked in another spot (clearly shopping at Target was more important than making a full escape). So, with frozen groceries slowly going bad in the back of my car, I had to call the police and file a report. I pointed out the car that the man had identified and thankfully, they let me leave. The police had to waste their time waiting for the person to finish their shopping and return to their car. A simple note with a phone number would have prevented me from involving the police who no doubt ticketed the person for hit and run. Doing the right thing, even when NOBODY is watching, will always result in a better outcome.

  3. 6

    Carol says

    Once when I pointed out that I had been undercharged at my favorite bagel and coffee place, the cashier said, “Wow! I don’t know anyone who would have been honest about that.” My heart weeps.

  4. 7

    Kate says

    My husband was undercharged by $20 at Goodwill. We realized the mistake once we were out in the parking lot and I ran in to rectify it. The manager was so surprised she didn’t know how to react! Our kids weren’t with us, but both of us felt good for doing the right thing.

  5. 8


    This is SO good. I know I’ve been convicted about integrity with regard to my children. We don’t mean to “lie” to them, but I often find that my husband and I say yes to something, and then find a way out of it. It is certainly something we are working on and making better in our family. Our kids call us on it, and remind us of what we promised originally. Thank God for the grace to parent children with integrity! Thanks for this great reminder post!

  6. 11

    Amber says

    Thank you for sharing this! Are children are always watching us and learning from us in every situation. Our integrity, how we react, how we respond to them when we parent, if we just tell them “because I said so” without giving any explanation of why so they can learn. This is a great reminder to all of us to be our best us so our children can learn by example and hopefully choose to be the best them. My 11 yr old daughter tells me I am her inspiration and not only is that a huge compliment but it’s also a huge responsibility that I don’t take lightly. :)

  7. 12


    All I can do is a give a very hearty Amen to this!
    And what’s worse? when your child is at a friends house and his friend wants to watch a movie (horror) that you child knows quite well they are not to watch. So, being a well raised child you can Manage themselves when you are not around; they politely say that they are not allowed to watch those kinds of movies.
    wait for it…..
    only to have The Parent!!! reply “oh, we won’t tell you mom.”
    seriously? what did you just teach my child?!
    well not my child – he called to come home. *beaming*

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