Lisa Markwell: Children, don't do as we do, but do as we say

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The Independent Online

What kind of example does a parent want to set for their child? We must teach them that shoplifting is bad, even though as a protest against the creeping rise of the soulless shopping experience many people are stealing groceries via the self-checkout system. According to a new survey by the website, almost a third of us have done just that. It's tempting, sorely tempting – but it is wrong.


We tell children that saving money is important, while at the same time not saving anything ourselves – whether because there's a meagre amount to hand, or because we're railing against the banks.

Last time I went into a branch, the one human being on duty was unable to  fit her computer keyboard and mouse on her tiny table at the same time, while behind her acres of soft seating and coffee tables for "consultation" remained empty. Then there's today's news that HSBC is canning 2,200 employees. I've cut up almost all my cards, grumpily and never answer their infuriating marketing telephone calls (what's the betting they'll be keeping those staffers on?)

Teaching ethics is a tricky business. We, the adults in my family, bitch and moan about money almost every night, then in the next breath berate our son for not coming up with ways to earn a significant contribution to the expensive trip he wants to take this summer.

But how exactly can a teenager earn money these days? The days of getting a Saturday job at the newsagents or grocers are behind us (he's under 16); possibly rightly, since there are few enough opportunities for adult job-seekers without kids undercutting them.

So descriptions of weekends doggedly stocking shelves or sweeping out the local shop are unhelpful and are anyway met with pitying looks about a quasi-Victorian way of life.

Possibilities are limited. There's dog walking and babysitting, car washing and gardening. But there's also revision for GCSEs to do – more important than pretty much anything else right now, as we enter the final lap – and participation in sport to fit in. It's a bad parent that doesn't encourage their kid to move about. (Although I'll admit I don't set a good example here, using the shortest possible route from desk to stove to sofa.)

So, kids, don't do as we do, particularly if it's illegal, immoral or lazy; do as we say, but only if we say it direct to you (and not over wine when we think you've gone to bed...). Are we clear?