The executive director of a Christian doctors organization says a recent study proves that, when it comes to bringing up children, "more is caught than taught."

Dr. David Stevens of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations says a study by researchers at Dartmouth Medical School found that children often mimic their parents' actions while at play. "And in this study," he notes, "where they had the opportunity to pick things for their Barbie doll or Ken doll in a shopping situation, [children] were much more likely to pick up alcohol, cigarettes, and similar substances if their parents either use those substances or expose them to lots of TV advertising or movies that showed this type of behavior."

The results have important implications for parents, Stevens points out. He says mothers and fathers need to guard their children, especially very young children, from overexposure to behaviors they do not want their children to pick up.

But the CMDA spokesman emphasizes that the converse principle is also true. Just as youngsters can mimic their parents' bad habits, he asserts, they can also copy the good habits or behaviors their parents demonstrate.

"When I think of my mother or my father, what do I remember?" Stevens asks. "I remember them praying; I remember them on their knees; I remember them reading their Bible every morning -- the habits of faithfulness and going to church, those things. Faithfulness would be the word that I would label all that with."

Parents who model such positive behaviors are not only likely to see those behaviors mimicked while the children are at play, the Christian doctor notes, but these parents are also likely to find such acts of faithfulness heavily influencing their children's attitudes and behavior as they grow older.

The main point, Stevens says, is that parents who consistently practice any type of activity, whether the behavior is good or bad, are more likely to see it absorbed and acted out by their children.


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Mary Rettig, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.

© 2005 AgapePress all rights reserved. Used with permission.