“Do what I say but not what I do!” In some households, parents convey this motto to their children. It is the thought that children should not concern themselves with what a parent does but only obey what they are told to do. Unfortunately, this does not work. Children have a way of watching everything we do and a desire to mimic what we do. Their knack for showing up at the most unexpected and sometimes awkward times is amazing. It could be the moment you give an angry look or gesture to someone who recently aggravated you and unknown to you, your children had a clear view of what you did. For the days that follow, you spend an unexpected amount of time convincing your children not to enact the same gesture to those they encounter at school or at daycare. With their ultra-observant eyes, there is not much they miss! It can be a constant reminder of our imperfections.
In Proverbs 22:6, the Bible tells us to “train up” our children in the way they should go. That means we need to instruct and demonstrate how they should conduct themselves. Oftentimes, the demonstration is the most difficult part. Living life the “right way” in front of our children makes us self-evaluate our lives, which can be uncomfortable. Even so, we must understand the role model we portray to our children is more important than how comfortable it feels to us. Our children are one of the most precious gifts God has given us so we must do all that we can to properly “train up” our children. It is a lifelong lesson but the results are worth every minute and every sacrifice.
As children grow older and face decisions, I would love to think they would ask, “What would Jesus do?” Just think how much better the world would be if all of us asked that question before reacting to life’s situations. In reality, I know that many children will not ask that question. However, if they have a close relationship with their parents, they might ask themselves, “What would Dad/Mom do?” Hopefully, if we have spent enough time loving and training them, the answer to their question would be a wise, loving and righteous answer.
For those who feel as though you have failed as a role model towards your children, cheer up. None of us are perfect. God has given us a great “reset” tool called repentance. When we mess up, we only need to ask His forgiveness and communicate to our children that we did not conduct ourselves as we should. Then we can tell them the correct way and commit to doing better next time. Most children (no matter the age) will respect the honesty and the example shown.