“Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:1-2
There are some questions I would like us as parents and grandparents to ponder. Questions such as: “What does my behavior illustrate to my children? How am I conditioning them for the world? What are my words and behavior saying to them about themselves? And how is my daily interaction with my spouse influencing my children’s expectations in their future relationships?
The truth is that whether we are aware of it or not we are teaching our children about the world by our words, and we are saying something to them by our conduct. Our children get their first glimpse of the world through the eyes of the people around them, and they learn about relationships by observing it all first though us. If we show little or no respect for our own parents or spouse they will see it and receive it as acceptable behavior. Whatever we do or say can become a model or gauge for their life. You see, whether we realize it or not, we pass on more than just our DNA to our children.
But the issue is not for parents to be perfect models for their children to become replicas of them, but perhaps to follow Christ so they, too can strive to be Christ-like, knowing that God is a loving and forgiving Father. Paul said to the Corinthian believers, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ. Because the Corinthians did not know much about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the gospels had not yet been written, they could not imitate Christ. So the best way for Paul to point them to Christ was through a Christian they trusted. Someone they knew had a relationship with Jesus. Therefore, Paul was saying he would become Christ’s representative. Whose representative are we for our children?
The other issue is, as parents we tend to compare one child to the next. It is natural for us to want to bring up all our children alike. But, “Train a child in the way he should go” implies just that. The fact is no two children are alike. They are individuals with special gifts and talents given to them by God. They also have different needs, strengths and weaknesses. This is not to suggest we excuse bad behavior, but to help each child develop their strengths and teach them to make good choices for themselves—as individuals.