(Whether a parent yourself, or a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, a scout leader, or whatever your role in the lives of the children around you, this important series will give you valuable tips on how to influence those kids for the Lord! To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)
Here’s a question for you: Do you learn more from a person by doing what they say, or by doing what they do?
In some cases, you probably learn by doing what someone suggests. Especially if you are not around that person to know how they, themselves, deal with situations. But what about when you do see how that person reacts? What about when you see that he (or she) doesn’t practice he (or she) preaches? What then? Do his suggestions hold any weight if you don’t see the fruit of them in his own life?
I am a voice therapist. I help teachers who have lost their voices get back on the job, I help people who are chronically hoarse be able to speak clearly again, and I help singers maintain their beautiful voices. In order to do so, I make several requirements of my clients. To name a few of the simple ones, I require them to drink plenty of water, to avoid caffeine, and to cut back on how much they talk. I even tell them that it is possible for them to stop clearing their throats altogether. What would happen if a client caught me buying a cup of coffee or clearing my throat? My client would get the message that an occasional coffee is “okay” and that it really isn’t possible to stop throat clearing; and I would have a very difficult time getting them to comply to my suggestions! When I practice what I preach however, not only do my suggestions gain credibility in the eyes of my clients, but I am able to teach them from personal experience.
Now it may be true that some of you may have learned to take suggestions at face value; but I would suggest that children, especially teens, have not. If they see you react differently than how you tell them to react, then your words will hold no weight whatsoever.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat back to analyze a particular negative trait or behavior that I can’t seem to correct in my boys, only to see that same negative trait in myself! Take, for example, the problem of one child yelling at another. I lose my cool once in awhile, and I yell of one of them for doing something they aren’t supposed to do; yet I punish them for yelling at each other. When I sit down and analyze it, however, I realize that the only thing I am teaching them is that you are only supposed to keep your cool when your parents are around; but when you are the one in charge, when you are the one making the rules, it’s okay to yell!
And what about that guy that just about pushed you off the road? The one who just about caused an accident? He deserved to be yelled at, didn’t he? Otherwise he might succeed in causing an accident next time! But wait. There are ears in the backseat, ears that listen intently. How can you expect them to deal with people who irritate them in a Christlike manner when they don’t see that in you?
We, as parents, can preach a good sermon. But unless we’re prepared to practice what we preach, all of our words are in vain! Is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul admonishes us to be a good example? “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” (Titus 2:7)
The same applies to having a personal relationship with Christ. I cannot encourage my children to actively pursue this if I do not actively pursue it myself. I cannot show them how to do so if I, myself, haven’t learned how. I cannot ask them to act the way Jesus would act if I don’t act that way myself!
I’d like to propose that if you want to bring up your kids God’s way, you have to learn to be an excellent example yourself! You must model the behavior you want to see in your child, and that means that in order to bring them up to have a personal relationship with Christ, you must have one yourself! That means that in order to teach them to respond to trouble by handing it over to the Lord, then you must make a regular habit of handing your problems over to the Lord! That means that in order to teach them to love others unconditionally, to be unselfish and giving, to go out of their way to help others, you, yourself, must make it a habit of doing the same!
Whoa. That’s a pretty big responsibility! How can I ever . . .
You’re right. YOU can’t. Only with Christ are ALL things possible: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13).
The best thing to do if you wish to encourage the child in your life to develop a personal relationship with Jesus is to work on your own. Take time everyday in Bible study and prayer. Open your heart to God’s Spirit. Ask God to open your Spiritual ears and eyes. Talk your problems over with Him. Ask Him to reveal to you the areas of your life where you are not a good example, and then, when He’s done that (and He’ll only reveal things in manageable portions!), ask Him to help you to be more Christ-like in these areas of your lives!
Enough to ponder, but do ponder this: If you want to encourage your kids to have a personal relationship with Christ, if you want them to react to situations in a Christ-like manner, then you must be their example!
Join us next week for Bringing up Kids God’s Way, Part 5e: Sharing Successes and Failures.
God bless each of you abundantly as you seek to guide the kids in your life in the ways of the Lord!
In His love,
P. S. If you need some help with your own relationship with God, please email me! Maybe I can help: email@example.com .
(To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)