First, please allow me to ask your forgiveness as for the last few months I have struggled to come up with something new and worthy of posting here on FaithWriters. To say that I have been busy is an understatement and one of the many projects dominating my attention is the preservation of Civil War Battlefields. This is not the topic of my article, but the basis for what sparked the idea for this piece.
One of the key benefits in preserving these hallowed grounds is the invaluable resource they provide for sharing history with our children. Other references such as books, movies and museums can present a distant overview, but not like the actual experience of walking in the very footsteps of our ancestors.
It is one thing to hear about the triumph and tragedy of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, but you cannot even begin to appreciate it until you stand at the “Bloody Angle” and look out over the miles of open field where thousands of troops fell. No words ever written can capture that. In other words, “seeing” is “believing.”
That brings us to my focus today, which is “walking the walk” as a Christian parent. I have three children that are all spread apart in age (13, 8, 7-months). Two out of three think their old man is a total bore (I still have the baby fooled.) Don’t get me wrong, I have my occasional “cool moments,” but for the most part, I’m just the “old man.”
One of the biggest challenges for me personally is making sure that I set a good example for my kids. Children imitate what they see and it is one thing for parents to expect them to behave according to certain values and principals, yet another to practice those principals ourselves.
As Christian parents, we try to cover the basics. We regulate the Internet and monitor the television and other outside influences that we feel are inappropriate. We keep a careful eye on where they go and what they do. We take them to church on Sundays and drop them off at Youth Group and The Way. We try to teach them lessons based on Biblical principals and hope that they listen to what we are saying.
Usually, we think we are doing a good job.
On the other hand, how many times do we ourselves give into our own weaknesses?
How many times have you caught yourself swearing at the TV during a ball game, or yelling out the car window at someone who just cut you off? What about judging people you see at the mall by commenting on the number of tattoos they have or stating your unwanted political opinions in front of your kids? These are just a few of the examples of behavioral “bad habits” that we may not even be aware of.
I am guilty of all of the above. No matter how hard I try, I still make these stupid mistakes and for some reason my children are always around to witness it. Luckily, most of my bad habits don’t appeal to them, and sometimes I think they actually enjoy the opportunity of catching their dad sticking his foot in his mouth.
My point is this. We can talk and preach to our kids until we are blue in the face, but the best way we can instill Christian values in our children is to live by example.
I still make mistakes, but I am slowly learning from them and now I think before I speak. Often I ask myself, “Is this too mature of a discussion for them?” or “Would I be embarrassed if they repeated this?” Sometimes I think, “Is getting angry worth it?” and “What if they said that? Would I punish them?” In other words, I have begun to discipline myself. By parenting me, I am parenting them.
I also look for guidance from above. The Bible is filled with a plethora of parenting advice: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV: Proverbs 22:6). Sometimes this means being “un-cool” and “un-popular” with the kids, but if its in their best interests, I’d rather be a “square”.
I’m far from being a perfect parent and I never will be. All I can do is try my best to set a good example for my kids and ask for forgiveness when I stumble. I stumble a lot, but I’m learning to walk better everyday, and by the grace of God, hopefully my kids will stumble less than I have.
So the next time you feel the urge to drop a few expletives or chastise someone - take a deep breath – know that you’re a role model – and that your actions speak louder than words.