As a parent, the lessons we pass along to our children can be separated into two simple categories — what to do and what not to do.

Yes, we can cloud the discussion with various degrees of what we believe is important, but, in the end, it all comes down to understanding our children will first learn from the observation of how we behave in a wide variety of circumstances.

How did our parents handle difficult situations? Did they face them head-on, or look for ways to avoid making the hard decisions? What lessons did we, as children, learn from them during these windows? Did we learn what to do — or not do?

Even as my wife and I navigate life with adult children, I realize there is no timeline on this body of work. Even though our kids no longer live under our roof, I realize they will forever watch and learn from us as we face life’s coming challenges. Like it or not, our actions are still in their spotlight.

It might be easy to tell ourselves our kids stop watching us the day they pull out of the driveway with their worldly possessions packed in the trunk of the car — but this is just not so.

Even while they are dealing with the challenges of early adulthood, they also have an eye on us for clues on how we navigate our lives without them. Parenting is one big teaching lesson without an expiration date.

Some of us are luckier than others. Many of us come from homes where the lessons are positive and easy to follow.

Others, unfortunately, live a life filled with avoiding land mines of opportunities to derail an otherwise productive life. Truth versus lies, commitments without follow through, or maybe even retreating into outside influences to help get through the day. Life is hard — and for children desperately looking to their parents for clues, it can be especially challenging.

But lately I’ve come to realize I’ve still got a set of eyes on me even though our kids are nearly a thousand miles away. Even as our children work through the bumps of independence, I realize they are still watching the decisions my wife and I make. Not that they need to follow them at this time, but these very moments are being filed away under “one day.” How my wife and I treat each other, how we manage our finances and health, or how we plan for our future all send potentially long-term lessons to our kids. Like it or not, my wife and I are still in the teaching seat.

As our children travel the unpredictable road of life, my wife and I know we are still throwing off signals of how our children may very well act later in life.

I guess, as parents, we never really get a final report card — that is, one we’ll live to see.

But in the end, hopefully, the breadcrumbs we leave behind will help our children successfully navigate life when we are no longer around.

Leonard Woolsey is the publisher of The Galveston County Daily News. You can reach him at

(1) comment


Mr. Woolsey,
Sir, what a hard hitting article! What a refreshing, informative piece which is right on target for today's untoward,..twisted society,...where children normally take the lead and tell their parents what they want to do,. instead of the parent telling them WHAT they are going to do! It is a Godly mandated job to ..."train-up a child in the way he/she should go and when they are old they will not depart from it."
( Proverbs 22:6 ).
Again, I love what you have written here,..because it is so true. Kids watch their parents' every move,..they watch what is important to them and what is not! When they are very young they emulate their parents by imitating what they see their parents do. Many times future goals, and career moves of children are influence from the quality of parenting children receive at home. With that,..think about the problems we are having in our communities on the streets,...or in our schools today,...because many parents of this generation will straight-up proclaim, they don't want to "SUBJECT" their children to the "STRICT" upbringing they themselves received from their own parents of the prior generation!
You hit one out the park, as far as I'm concerned when you said your children are still taking notes from you and your wife,...meaning you are still influencing them in doing right, and constructive things, and in making good sound life decisions even though they are adults now.
My father did not have a high school education, but was a big influence on me in the same manner with Godly wisdom, and righteousness! I can remember him pointing a finger in my face, ( I was 25 years old ) .... and scolding me vehemently about a racist remark coming out of my mouth! He said, "Where you git that kind of talking from?" " I ain't learn you nothing lack dat....and I on wanna "hear tell" you saying saying nothing lack-it agin!" "If I do, and you "ga" have it now!"
I said yes sir,...( tears in my eyes ) I apologize! Now, as I said I was a ground man and was bench pressing over 300 pounds in the weight room, but the way I was raised, and the respect I had for a man who did not have a high school education, but saw to it that I was at least parented with a degree of respect for others, was enormous and immense! What that old man taught me served me well all my life as I ventured into the deep South,. overseas in the military,..and to this day. I'll close with this experiment on parenting:
I read about a zoo somewhere in the world who had young elephant males who were raised in captivity without the benefit of role model parents. They were raised in captivity by their human "keepers." Well the keepers discovered that as the "young bulls" grew older and larger in size, they became more viscous,...territorial, and dangerous. The keepers even had to distract them to clean their zoo facilities,and to feed them. They young bulls let the keepers know THEY were in charge of the area and not the keepers! So one day, one of the keepers wanted to try something out of the box.
The keeper proposed bringing in several OLD BIMBO elephants who were raised in the wild,..and put them in the same compound with the YOUNG BULLS. Results:
Within a short period of time, the OLD BIMBO elephants took control of the compound and compelled the YOUNG BULLS to behave themselves and act like they had some *&% sense! True story. After seeing this story, I realized, THAT WAS THE SAME THING MY FATHER DID TO ME THAT DAY, HE POINTED HIS FINGER IN MY FACE, AND SAID,..."I'M NOT HAVING THAT KIND OF TALK COMING FROM A SON OF MINE!" We need more parents like you Mr. Woolsey, ...and my dad!

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