I never thought I’d get a column idea from a pope, but here it is. Pope Francis teaches the world humility by passing up fancy digs and red shoes. On his recent visit to the U.S. he took time to pay attention to individuals in need, and skipped a congressional lunch to dine with the poor. He has won the praise of all by walking the walk of his beliefs. You don’t have to agree with him on everything, but we can all see him teaching love and compassion by his own example.

In the very same way, parents and teachers demonstrate to children every day their examples of respect, patience, compassion and critical thinking — or lack of the same. We all learn from the behaviors of those we respect.

When we say one thing and do another, children are watching and listening. I still remember when my father, who expected me to be honest, lied about my age to save money at the movie theater. I was furious. Here are a few other examples dog discipline.about.com of how parents accidentally model bad behavior:

— A mother tells her daughter to be kind to others, but yells at a store clerk who refuses to take back an item the mother wants to return.

— A father, while smoking a cigarette, tells his kids that smoking is bad and they should never pick up the habit.

— A divorced couple argue frequently about custody issues but expect the kids to get along with each other.

Here are some behaviors no teacher should ever do:

— Demand students turn in work on time but come to class without a lesson plan.

— Talk about the importance of students being respectful, then belittle a child in front of the class.

— Complain when students are tardy but keep the class waiting after recess or lunch.

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Putting our own needs aside to address those of a child is a challenge for all of us. It is not easy to parent or teach children with very different personalities and needs. The difficulties in our own lives demand attention — job pressures, marriage or single parenthood, and financial obligations — but if we wish to raise self-sufficient kids with the greatest potential for success and happiness, we need to put them first on a regular basis.

Adults who are patient, try to understand children’s struggles, who listen, answer questions and offer unconditional love and support, teach children to risk, have confidence, and respect themselves. A typical professional standard for the teaching profession reads, “Uses an understanding of individual and group motivation and behavior to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation.”

Good teachers model those traits every day. Although parents don’t get any professional training, I believe they have the same charge.

Thanks, Pope Francis. You’ve reminded us that when it comes to our children, we are all teachers. It truly takes a village of good examples.

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Lenore Hirsch is a retired school principal living in Napa. Send questions to lenorehirsch@att.net. Please include your child’s age or grade.