One thing the parenting books fail to prepare you for is this: Once you have a child, you forever have an audience — even when you think no one is paying attention. Those little eyes and ears pick up everything.

Unfortunately, telling them to “do as I say and not as I do” does not work. The little stinkers know when we’re not on our best behavior and mimic exactly what we prefer they not notice.

Here’s what you need to watch.

1.) Censor Your Language.
We all know to watch our mouths around babes. But some language is so ingrained we don’t even know what we’re saying. One single mom from New York told Lifezette that her daughter’s first word was a certain 4-letter word. “The mom didn’t even think she used it such a word, until she realized she did. A lot.

Even when we censor what we say, we sometimes don’t want our kids repeating it in the hallways of their school. A middle-aged dad from Alexandria said that’s the reason he’s trying to limit his use of "move over, morons" when he’s driving.

2.) Ban the Backstabbing.
You think Tommy’s mom had a little plastic surgery or some other work work? Make sure your kids don’t overhear you mention Botox, fillers or any other augmentation. Next thing you know, you might be getting a phone call about the rumors they started at school.

And do you think your kids don’t hear you on the phone complaining about your mother-in-law? Just because they seem focused on their Legos doesn’t mean they don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s only a matter of time before what you say will get repeated, and likely in front of your mother-in-law.

3.) Don't Reward or Encourage Gross Behavior.
Bodily function noises or other unfortunate behavior may draw laughs from the younger crowd. Regrettably, it's often a dad or an uncle who commits said crime. Someone has got to undo that damage and teach the kids to say "excuse me" instead and don't make a big deal out of the aftermath of giggles.

Also, ban picking of any kind, and make sure they see you appropriately using tissues. Like mother, like kid.

4.) Put the Phone Down.
Lamenting about how "kids today" are always on their phones? Check yourself first. Are you texting at the dinner table? On social media in the car? You can’t expect your kids to be engaged with other human beings when you don’t engage with them.

A Northern Virginia mom of three told Lifezette, "I have to remind myself to put my phone away when I’m with my one-year-old. She’s already fascinated by my phone. It makes sense; my face is always focused on a screen. She must be wondering what’s so great about it."

5.) Drive as if You Are in Driver's Ed.
You can’t expect your budding drivers to obey the rules of the road if they’ve watched you ignore them whenever you're behind the wheel. Time to ease up on your lead foot, use your blinker, buckle up — and give those pedestrians the right of way (as is the law).

6.) Watch How You Treat the Family Pet.
Sure, Fido might have deserved a verbal lashing after stealing food from the counter for the umpteenth time. But all your kids see is you yelling at the dog. When you treat your pets with hostility, your kids will, too. Think about how you treat animals when your kids are around.

A 41-year-old father who lives in the Washington, D.C., area said that his kids had started yelling at their dog to "shut it" whenever the pup barked. Turns out that’s what their mom had been doing whenever the dog got loud. The dad said, "Undoing that funny but nasty behavior has not been easy."

7.) Curb Your Meltdowns and Bad Habits.
Do you routinely lose your temper when the table isn't cleared after dinner? Do you routinely need a glass a wine at the end of a tough day? Think about what you do on a regular basis that might be fine for an adult who can make mature decisions, but demonstrates bad coping skills for children.

A mom from Columbus, Ohio, said that her daughter has picked up her anxiety. "I know it’s genetic, but she has also learned by watching my meltdowns."

Even your fun-loving self can backfire. "My daughter has taken to singing and dancing loudly in public places, which I used to do to embarrass her," said another mom. "I guess she has decided, if you can’t beat ‘em …"

8.) Don't Forget to Be Kind.
Saying "please" and "thank you" is fairly easy. But being kind to our fellow human beings is the real goal. It's THE behavior that our kids should model.

Think about it. Kindness can take many forms: appreciating a meal someone made you even if it tastes awful; asking someone who looks upset if they need help; showing compassion in a world that is too caught up in the trees and can't see the much bigger forest. If you treat people with kindness and compassion, chances are your kids will, too.

More from

Smartest Money Moves for Baby Boomers

Here’s Why Kids Flunk ‘Life Skills 101’

Veterans Contribute to a Booming Industry

Most Thoughtful ‘Proposal’ Ever