Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Soccer Mom Life
Spring 2019 in Southeastern Wisconsin consisted of the following weather phenomenons: rain, snow, cold, and more rain. Poor weather forced the cancellation of soccer game after soccer game. The soccer league director waited until the very last minute to call games, in hopes the weather would change.
So, as we prepared for another potentially rainy game on a Saturday morning this spring, I whined to my husband about sitting in the rain and watching the games. My patient husband offered to take the kids to the game (he was a coach and had to be there) so I could stay warm and dry at home. Of course, I declined his kind offer, because good moms sit in the rain and watch their kids play soccer.
Within a minute of this adult side conversation, my oldest child uttered almost the exact same words I did: it was rainy, he didn’t want to get wet, and he hoped the game got canceled. So how did I respond? With gracious kindness, like my husband had responded to me? Of course not. I snapped at him, told him to stop whining, and reminded him that he should be grateful if the game didn’t get called.
And then I realized what had happened. I scolded my child for repeating the words that came out of my mouth. Ouch.
The Apple and the Tree
Prior to starting my current job as a church communicator, I taught middle school and high school for over a decade. I found myself wondering how kids got to be the way they were… until Parent-Teacher Conferences in October. When I met the parents, it usually became pretty obvious from where my students’ personality traits stemmed. High-achieving kids often came from driven parents with successful careers, and the opposite was also often true. Of course, there are developmental and ability factors that cause differences in how kids learn, but for the majority of my students, the apple didn’t often fall far from the tree.
Now, on the other side of the table, I see myself coming through in my kids. My oldest is a perfectionist leader with a strong sense of justice. My middle child is fiercely competitive and often gets lost in books. And my baby girl is strong-willed, loving, and over-dramatic. For better or for worse, they all have traits of me and my husband that become apparent in the most amusing and frustrating ways. While some of these traits are more positive than others, we do have to help our kids learn how to allow these traits to show through in Christ-like ways. But this doesn’t start with them; it starts with their parents.
Work On Yourself First
In our church small group, which consists of several families with young kids, we’re studying a book called Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. It’s divided into 31 chapters which each do the following:
- define a negative trigger that causes angry reactions in parents,
- explain what Jesus has to say about this in His Word, and
- provides suggestions for how to respond to the trigger in Biblical ways
It’s humbling how much of the book speaks to me and the challenges I face as a parent. There are dozens of wisdom-filled phrases throughout the book, but one that sticks with me is this: “Iron fists chisel stony hearts, but graceful hands shape responsive hearts.”1 When I read this, I had to pause and reflect on my parenting. Am I trying to act as dictator to my kids, telling them what to do and coming down hard when they don’t do it? Or am I guiding them to respect my wishes because they’ve come to respect me and know I have their best interests at heart?
I’ve realized I need to work on respond to situations rather than reacting. Before I jump in with a directive and a reprimand, I need have the self-control to pause and come to an understanding of the situation. My children will learn a lot more from how they see me respond than from anything that comes out of my mouth.
Jesus: Guide and Model
What I’m realizing as I read through Triggers is that I can’t just read this book and suddenly learn to be the best parent ever. I can’t rely on myself to enact all these positive parenting techniques. I need to rely on my Savior. In a sermon about self-control, Pastor Ben explained, “If you want to be self-controlled, you need more than just good advice from all the leading experts of the day. You need good news. You need the grace of God in Jesus Christ.”2 God’s grace gives us the strength we need to make decisions in behavior and actions that will positively impact our children.
No matter how much we work on being good role models for our kids, we’ll never get it perfect. There’s only one person who was the perfect role model: Jesus. In fact, Jesus’ perfection is one of the most amazing things about Him. In the book of Hebrews, we find, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). No person in their right mind is going to try to claim they’re perfect, because everyone who’s spent any time with him would know he’s a liar. Jesus was perfect though. If he wasn’t, his death wouldn’t free us from our sin and make us right with God.
Share What’s Most Important
We all approach parenting differently. God built us each uniquely to be the best parents for the children He created for us. But we all need to make sure to model for our kids what’s most important: the value of a relationship with Jesus. Pastor Bill explains in a message about raising our kids in Christ, “Don’t compartmentalize God, especially just to a day and an hour. Learn how to talk about and grow with God’s Word at the kitchen table, in the car, at the park, at the movies … These are teachable moments and teachable places.”3 When we build God into every part of our lives, we’re modeling for our children what it looks like to have a relationship with the Creator of the universe.
Our kids learn from us all the time, whether we like it or not. So, we can work on ourselves first to produce children that others want to be around. While we grow, we can also recognize that when we mess up, we provide our families and our Heavenly Father with an opportunity to show us grace.
Being the best parents we can is not out of reach. Through developing relationships with other Christian parents, engaging with parenting resources, and making God the center of our homes, we’re showing our kids how to live the life we want them to have.
1 Lia, A. and Speake, W. (2015). Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Ones. Escondito, CA: Same Page Press, p. 23.
2 Sadler, B. (7 July 2019). Fueled for self-control. Fueled sermon series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/self-control-not-willpower/
3 Limmer, B. (13 January 2019). Teaching moments and places. Living Forward sermon series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/teaching-moments/
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Best what can be in the world is Family !