I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” but did you realize that was some of the best parenting advice you could ask for?
I’ve had too many conversations with parents that went something like this.
A mom called me distraught about her son. He had been out drinking, stopped attending church, and turned his back on God.
Through tears, she said, “I don’t understand how this happened! We raised him in church! What did we do wrong? Why is this happening to us?”
I comforted her and prayed with her for her son. Still, I had to ask myself…
Why did that happen?
She was right; they did attend church pretty regularly. The problem was this woman and her husband said the right words on the weekend, but their ACTIONS preached a different message all week.
Which do you think had a bigger impact on their son?
Their son never saw them pursuing God or making Him a priority outside of Sunday morning. In fact, if sporting or social events came up, they were quick to take priority over church.
From her son’s perspective, God was a weekend activity!
This family said the right things, but their actions taught their son that pursuing a relationship with God was a lower priority than whatever seemed “fun” at the moment.
You can preach to your children every day about what they should or shouldn’t do, but…
The greatest influence on your children’s lives won’t be what they hear you SAY—it will be what they see you DO!
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” —Brennan Manning
My daughter Kirsten used to work in preschool at our church on the weekends. When she got done, she would often tell me about the cute and funny things children said to her.
One day, she told me about how she was working in the three-year-old class with another teacher when a child became unmanageable. He was going into fits of rage, falling on the floor screaming, trying to hit other children, and stealing their toys. They called his parents back to get him.
As they began to explain what happened to the parents, the father didn’t seem surprised or concerned at all. He made excuses for his son and gave him candy to make him happy.
The mom, who hadn’t said a word, timidly spoke up. “Well, he is acting very disobedient—”
Explosive yelling from her husband cut her off!
He pointed his finger in his wife’s face and told her not to talk about their son that way, backed her into a corner, and continued to yell at her. The mother didn’t act as though it was an unusual occurrence.
Suddenly, the little boy’s actions made sense to my daughter and the other teacher. He was only acting out the behavior he had seen modeled for him by his father.
Children reflect their home lives.
Your children don’t just need to hear you talking about God or what’s right and what’s wrong—they need to see an example of it in your life!
I can be a bit of a talker. Whenever I had something I wanted to instill into my children, my first instinct was to verbalize it in a million different ways until they got the point. The thing is, our children don’t act out what they hear … they act out what they see!
The best approach we can take in investing the right qualities into our children is to make sure we are modeling those qualities for them in ourselves.
If we want to instill a value for attending church in our children, we need to make church a priority over sporting or social events in our own lives.
If we want our children to have a relationship with God that extends beyond church on Sunday, then we need to model a relationship with God that extends beyond Sunday in our lives.
If we want our children to spend less time on their phones, then we have to spend less time on our phones!
Do you see the pattern?
Kids reenact what they see, not what they hear.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to be a perfect parent. Your children can learn from your mistakes as well!
I can’t say it enough, but I was not a perfect mother. I tried my best, but there were many times when I fell short. When I messed up, I had to make the decision to use my mistakes as a learning opportunity for my children, and then I had to make the effort to do better moving forward.
Most importantly, your children need to see the evidence of God’s goodness in your life. They need to see your faith in action.
When Kirsten was younger, I asked her why she served God. She told me, “Growing up, it worked all the time. We lived by God’s Word. We always prayed, we always saw God come through, and that’s how I grew up. I never expected anything else.”
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
If there’s something in your life communicating the wrong message to your children, today is the day to change it.
Lead by example!
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