Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Finding What Works For You

The double standard better known as ”Do as I say not as I do!” This is a subject area many couples that I see in counseling express emphatically. Sometimes children will exclaim the same sentiment relative to their parents. Smoking, be it tobacco or cannabis, has often been a sore subject in families. ”You smoked, why can’t I?” ”It’s bad for you, all the studies say so!” ”Yeah, so how come you did or still do it?” Social scientists state, ”You have to be consistent.” That genius worked well for a long time until a radical element asked ”What does consistent mean?” Back to the drawing board!

I have learned that openness and honestly are pertinent in unraveling the knot that confuses couples and families on the double standard subject matter. A parent wants the best for her/his child’s health and well-being. That creates a solid foundation to then open lines of communication for learning and changing behaviors. Merely telling your child that you are adamantly opposed to their smoking experience will be viewed as an attack on their person. Adding to the equation a denial of your experience probably won’t bode well with your child’s expected response. That’s where another old saying comes into the picture, that is ”tell your child what not to do and they’ll do it anyway – behind your back.” Whew!

While holding tightly to what doesn’t work and refusing to give it up, we then may need to be open to realizing what can work. Open communication with complaints, not criticism, offers a starting pont to unleash that standard-bearer, the double standard. This is where creativity, be it a conflict between a couple or with your child, can generate rewards. There’s no one answer. You need to find what works for you. Once you find something that works, realize it may not work for all problems. Remember, the reward is not merely in the immediate time, it’s for sending a healthy-positive message for future conflicts to get resolved.

Be open to individual, couple or even family counseling if you require guidance and direction from a trained qualified practitioner. The rewards and benefits will be worth the energy.

Marshall Greenstein holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email