Famous child psychiatrist Fritz Redl used to say to groups of parents: “Get out your paper and pencils. I am going to tell you the three most important things you will ever need to know about raising children.” The parents would wait breathlessly for his words of wisdom. Then he would say, “Example, example, example.”
In case you doubt the importance of teaching by example, think about your own childhood. How were you most influenced to become the person you are now? Chances are that the person you have become was influenced mostly by the example set by your parents.
One of my biggest fears as a preacher is preaching the “how to live” on Sundays and not actually living that at home with my family. Making my walk match my talk is so important to me. I try to ask my kids periodically, “Am I doing at home what I’m preaching on Sundays?”
I was reminded recently about my walk matching my talk when my sarcastic son Taylor, who’s just like his father, reminded me of something I said in a sermon that I didn’t want to hear. I’d been trying all summer to get some new grass seeded in a bald spot in the front yard. My sons and all their neighborhood friends decided our yard was the best place for their Sunday afternoon ballgames (which is why there is the current bald spot). So I stepped out the front door and said, “Guys, if possible watch my new grass over there” (translation: “Stay off my new grass or I’ll choke you“). Taylor quickly shot back, “Hey Dad, don’t forget you’re raising boys around here, not grass.” That was an exact quote from a previous sermon I’d done just weeks before. Ouch!
Does your walk match your talk when it comes to your children? Or do you do dumb things that your children clearly see?
- Do we tell our kids to be honest and then tell them when they answer the phone, “If it’s for me, tell them I’m not here?”
- Do we tell them to obey the law and then speed down the highway when we’re running late?
- Do we lie for them to get them out of trouble? Do we write them notes saying they were sick when they weren’t?
- Do we tell our children to control their anger and then go ballistic at one of their ballgames when a referee makes a bad call?
- Do you tell your kids they’re not allowed to watch rated R movies and then go see them yourselves?
- Do we praise our children for excelling athletically and academically more than we do spiritually?
I understand that none of us are capable of perfection or anything close to it. We all lose our tempers, say things we’re sorry for, are not always as kind as we would like to be, maybe even cheat a little here or there. We are human and so are our children. Perfection can be expected of neither. When we screw up we need to apologize to them and ask for their forgiveness. When we apologize, we’re teaching them that when they make a mistake it’s not the end of their world, but that they can admit it and grow from it.
It is essential as a parent that your kids see your walk match your talk. And what ever you do, make sure you don’t forget that you’re growing kids not grass.