“Do you see me crying? When you see me crying, you can cry.”
The first time I heard my dad say this to my little nephew Max, I was offended, to say the least. What did he mean? Of course Max was crying; he was 2 1/2 and had just gotten in trouble. Why shouldn’t he cry? But that wasn’t the last time we heard that comment from dad: “When you see me running through the church, you can run through the church.” “When you see me jumping on the couch, you can jump on the couch.” I completely disagreed with this treatment, but because I respected my dad greatly, I didn’t say a word about his “cruel” comments. After all, I didn’t have any children, so what did I know?
Then I started my own family and began to see what Dad was talking about. My dad would never cry or throw a fit in public, so why should Maribelle (or any child.) I would never throw spaghetti on the floor during dinner, so why should little Lissa? I began to understand that even from the youngest age, I was the model for my children. In a sense, Dad was giving the kid version of Paul’s request to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
Through trials (and many errors) I discovered that the number one rule of parenting is this: You can only reproduce who you are. If you want kids who are kind, that’s who you need to be. If you want children who don’t lie and treat others fairly, you will have to do the same. Conversely, if you want children who yell and scream or punch holes in the wall, well, that is an option, too.
My one goal as a mother has always been to have children who seek God with their whole heart, so from my very first baby, I would wake up every morning (and still do) to study the Word of God and sit in the presence of Jesus. I do this hoping and praying that my children will follow my example—not as a manipulative tool or an activity to check off the list, but because I want my kids to have the kind of blessed life described in Psalm 91. Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” My children are not grown yet, but so far I feel like they are “turning out.”
As a parent, what do you want for your children? Who do you want them to be? Think about it and pray over it. Ask God to give you a vision for your life and for your children. Ask for a chapter in the Bible from which to lead. Because, like it or not, when your kids see your actions, there is a tremendous chance that they will follow.
If you think you’ve already messed up and your kids are lost for good, there is still hope. God is the great God of hope, forgiveness, and second chances. He can restore everything that has been lost with your child, but that is a story for another post.
God bless you as we raise the next generation!