Parenting is humbling. I mean, it sure is easy to stand in front of a group and teach them what is right and true. It’s an entirely different thing to have a “student” with you day in and day out watching to see if you “practice what you preach.” Their life ends up revealing yours.

For almost 20 years I trained summer camp counselors at one level or another. Thousands of them. There was a key, memorable phrase that stuck out to me as part of our training:

People would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.”

People would rather watch the way someone lives, and learn from them, as opposed to just listening to what they had to say. So when it comes to raising kids, what are the lessons you are teaching?

I had two situations recently – one good and one bad – that caught me off guard. They were scenarios in which my kids were watching my life and inadvertently doing what they had seen me doing.

Let’s start with the good example…

The other day I was sitting on the couch talking to my wife when one of my sons came up to me to show me his new prized possession. It was his Bible. I didn’t think much of it until he opened it up to show me what was inside. He had underlined some verses, many of them, in fact.

I asked what he had done and he said simply, “Dad, I underlined some verses in my Bible, just like you do.”

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(Here he is, proudly showing off his newly marked up Bible. I still struggle with the fact that his Bible has what appears to be sheep fur on the outside.)

Now, his choices of verses were quite funny. Maybe you are different than me. Maybe you – like my son – find deep meaning in a verse like this one:

Jesus was in Bethany. He was at dinner in the house of Simon, who had a harmful skin disease.” Mark 14:3

Obviously, it’s not the verses that matter. What matters is the fact my son knows that I read the Bible. He has seen me doing it. He also knows that I underline verses that I find especially meaningful at a certain point in time. And he is following in the footsteps of the one he follows.

Now, on to the bad example…

We have a dog. Her name is Scout. She isn’t always perfect. In fact, she’s still in the midst of the puppy phase. That means she pees on the floor, jumps on the couch, chews on the furniture, eats food that isn’t hers, wants to play when others don’t, and has far too much energy for something her size.

And sometimes that gets on my very last nerve.

So the other day that same son of mine got frustrated with something she did, so she let her have it. She started off with the high-pitched, high-volumed, “SCOUT!!!!” What followed was my son yelling, griping, and downright overreacting to Scout’s offense. Yeah… like father, like son.

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(There were no animals hurt as part of this blog post. Only my son trying to make a really mad face to act like he was yelling at our dog, Scout. And in case you noticed, yes, my son thought it would be a good idea to rip off the sleeves of his long-sleeved shirt after church on this day. I’m sure that will end up in a blog post at some point in the future.) 

Have you ever considered what your kids are learning from your life?

Consider these examples:

Example #1:

What you say – God is good. He loves you and wants you to know Him.

What you do – The only time you mention God is when it’s time to go to church, and even that is irregular. You never read your Bible, and rarely consider pointing out the beauty of His creation that reveals Him day in and day out.

Example #2

What you say – Honor your mother now and love your wife someday.

What you do – You treat your wife like one of the guys. You incessantly tease her, and rarely speak affirming words to her – especially in front of your kids. Not even the simplest of things – like opening her car door, or giving her a kiss at an unexpected time – is something that ever crosses your mind.

Example #3

What you say – Work hard in school. Make good grades.

What you do – You complain, a lot, about work. From your vantage point, the problems at work are never your fault. You deserve more. You think you should be treated better, should be paid more, and should be appreciated more for what you do. As a result, your attitude is poor, your effort diminishes, and your focus turns elsewhere.

Our kids are constantly learning, and they’re not just learning what we tell them to learn. They are learning by watching our examples. Consider today, what is the example you are setting.

Have your kids surprised you by living out something they learned from you? If so, what?

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