To Kill a Mockingbird Essay: Teaching by Example

The idea of a child's innocence refers to the lack of knowledge they inquire. This innocence then requires their role models to show them right from wrong, and left from right. Their modability and capability to learn and absorb the way of life of their role models make it important to teach children properly. The way you influence a child can mold the type of values and attitude they obtain. Teaching children by example is an approach many influencers go by to develop well educated children who demonstrate good character. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus is the main role model of his impressional children Jem and Scout. Through a time of injustice and racial discrimination, Atticus strives to make sure his childrens values differed from the prejudice community that surrounded them. The article, I Spy Daddy Giving Someone the Finger written by Alan Kazdin and Carlo Rotella, also shows the significance of how a parent should not just tell their children to do something, but in fact demonstrate the good behavior. Without a doubt, the best parenting is that of teaching by example.

Scout, a child who does not yet understand the entirety of racism around her, asks Atticus about a phrase people always said to her but she never quite understood. During a conversation Scout finally asks, “What exactly is a nigger-lover?”(Lee 144) Atticus took this opportunity to teach Scout that "Nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don't mean anything...ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves...when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody”(Lee 107).  

He points out that there can be rude and racist people out in the world that create insults like “nigger-lover” to put the well educated people in the matter of racism down. He explains it just goes to show the reflection of the name-callers character rather than the effect of the insult on the person being called the name. Atticus then continues to say he is indeed a “nigger-lover” because he is open to loving everybody no matter the color of their skin. This entire conversation showed how much of a powerful and positive influence Atticus has on Scout. Atticus is used to the name calling and hate he receives, he shows Scout the amount of tolerance he has for people and how open he is to loving everyone by the way he explained it all. 

When Atticus was asked to take a controversial case to defend a black man named Tom Robinson who had no chance of winning, he surely accepted the case because he knew nobody else would take it or even try to set Tom  free. Atticus tells Scout, “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win”(Lee 101) He wants Scout to know that he took the case because it was only right to try and set example that in life, it is a person's responsibility to stand up for what they believe in. Atticus proves that he shows good moral standards to set for his children. If he did not take the case, it would have been against his beliefs of teaching Jem and Scout.

The Theme 

This theme is also shown in modern day society, demonstrated in the article I Spy Daddy Giving Someone the Finger written by Alan Kazdin and Carlo Rotella. The article states that parents tend to teach using the phrase “do as I say, not as I do” as a method to attempt to teach kids the do’s and don'ts of their lives. However, this turns out to be a very ineffective method, for children can detect the inconsistency in their parents' teaching style and therefore not learn from them. A child learns from observing the way a parent behaves and acts, so in other words they are most likely not going to take “do as I say, not as I do” into consideration, but rather learn from their parents do actually behave. Therefore, it's in fact significantly more effective to teach children by example to get actual results. Overall, the article ties into To Kill a Mockingbird and Lee’s idea that the best teaching is of teaching children by example. 

In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus plays a major role in helping Jem and Scout learn and grow as people. In the beginning of the novel, Jem and Scout lacked sufficient knowledge on the idea of racism and how it affected their community. As they began to grow uncertain about the subject, Atticus was their role model and always there to guide them to understandment. Ex (body paragraphs) Atticus not only always knew what to say, but he also never failed to demonstrate his teachings as well. The article, I Spy Daddy Giving Someone the Finger written by Alan Kazdin and Carlo Rotella, also demonstrated the overall theme of teaching children by example. In this novel, one can use the theme that the best parenting is that of teaching by example to implement into their lives and use as a template to develop well-mannered children who demonstrate good character. 

Works Cited 

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York :Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Kazdin, Alan, et al. “Your Kids Will Imitate You. Use It as a Force for Good.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 27 Jan. 2009,



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