Rules for Reading and Other Ways I'm a Hypocrite |

Have you seen those shirts that say, “I love Jesus, but I cuss a little”? I don’t have one, but I may understand that sentiment, a little. A while back I posted my own version on Facebook: “I’m a feminist, but sometimes I really like country music.” And who hasn’t heard a parent or teacher say, “Do as I say, not as I do”?

My point is that most of us are hypocrites in one way or another.

Becoming a parent has been illuminating in all the hardest ways for me. Seeing my own bad habits and behaviors mimicked by my daughters is a punch in the gut, the sharpest conviction I’ve known. Thanks to my kids, I’ve learned so much about grace and courage and failure, about leaning on God’s strength and being confident in who He made me to be. It’s good, really, being faced with my own faults in such a glaring way.

Well, you know, if by “good” I can also mean “painful and sometimes a little bit annoying because personal growth is hard, darn it.”

I tell my kids they need to eat more veggies and that too many chips will give them a stomachache. I tell them over and over that our house is not a trash can, that they need to put away their things. And a surefire way to make me go from zero to irate is by rolling your eyes at me — something both my darling daughters have dared in their lifetimes.

Of course, you can probably guess (or you already know) that I’m a chip-loving, veggie-hating, eye-rolling slob at times.

Do as I say, kids…

Obviously some things are permissible for adults but not for kids. And when it comes to different choices among adults, I’m good with Paul’s explanation in the book of Romans that what works for some might not work for others, that those decisions are between each person and God. However, never has my hypocrisy been more evident than when I give my oldest daughter guidelines for reading.

She’s a bookworm, like her mother. And I love that about her! She’s so much like my husband that it’s a treat to see something of myself reflected in her personality. We really do have fun talking about books and sharing that interest. But the mother-daughter bonding goes awry every time I try to guide her in good reading habits.

Read one book at a time.
Don’t dog-ear the pages!
If you start a book, you should finish it.
Read books of a series in order.
Don’t stay up all night reading!

These are all reasonable recommendations, right? Good guidelines that will help her comprehend what she’s reading, create good habits, and grow as a reader in general? Yes, I think so. Unfortunately, these are also all rules that I have regularly broken in my nearly four decades of reading.


My daughter balks against these rules for reading simply because she doesn’t like to be told what to do or to do what she’s told. She doesn’t realize yet that I’m instructing her to do things I frequently don’t do myself. When that day comes I plan to bring reason that you must learn and follow the rules before you can break them (like in music or art or writing). But I suspect that will only result in more eye-rolling (possibly on both our parts).

Once we get past the eye-rolling, I hope we can talk about how knowing the right thing to doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to do the right thing. We’ve certainly had that discussion before and, as my girls grow, I know we’ll have it again. I suppose I’ll just chalk up this future confrontation — I mean, teachable moment — to one more unexpected way we learn by reading books.

Until then I find myself chuckling when I urge my daughter to finish one book before she starts another, knowing full well that I am in the middle of no less than four books at the moment. Perhaps one day she’ll teach me to be a better reader. After all, she’s been teaching me to be a better person her whole life.

Do you have any rules for reading (for yourself or for others)? Do you always follow them?

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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