A year ago, my one and half year old child was happily playing by himself as I worked around the house. After a few minutes he came toddling over to me, arm outstretched, hand closed, with a huge smile on his face. He had something he wanted to show me. He lacked the words to tell me but I could tell that he was very proud of himself. I smiled and asked “what did you find?” My toddler opened his hand to reveal a large (dead) spider. I am not proud of my reaction and I will never forget it. I am TERRIFIED of spiders. I screamed and pushed the spider away, inadvertently knocking my toddler over. My mothering instinct immediately took over. My toddler was physically fine but his feelings were obviously hurt. He didn’t understand my reaction. He had brought me, what he thought, was a great present and I had reacted with fear and rejection.
I’ve realized that a large portion of my life has been based on the same gut reaction I had that day. Fear. My children will see it, react to it, and eventually imitate it. I did not like that realization so I decided to change it. My children will not learn to live life based on fear from me. I will give them positive things to imitate that will serve them well in life. Here are three of the biggest things that I want to demonstrate in my own life that my children can imitate.
1) A strong relationship with the Father. I want my children to see me investing in my spiritual life. This means that I spend time one on one with God. I spend time with my family and God. I spend time with others and God. All that I do in life should be meant to glorify God. I don’t want my children to see my spiritual life as a once a week event or a bible study that I go to. I want to give them a life, that is brimming with Jesus, to participate in and eventually to imitate.
2) Predictable routines. Hear me out with this one. I’m not suggesting that every
moment of every day is planned and set out exactly the same. I am suggesting that we need anchors. I want to give my children anchors in everyday life that they can count on regardless of whatever else is going on. At this point in our family life our anchors are very simple. One of our main anchors consists of a meal and time of worship with our extended family once a week. There is a comfortable predictability on these evenings. We provide a main dish and each family brings a dish to share. We play, eat, pray, and worship together. Other anchors may be a bed time routine, a special song or book, praying together, or a weekly activity such as going to a park or playdate. The important thing is that it’s something my children can count on.
3) React out of love. This one is very difficult for me. Not because I don’t love, but because it is not my home base. This is what I realized a year ago. I naturally tend to react out of fear or anxiety. This is not what God wants from his disciples and it is not what I want to pass down to my children. I try to make a conscious effort that everything I do or say stems from a positive emotion rather than a negative emotion. We often here 1 Corinthians 13 read at weddings but what if we were to use it as the perfect example of love. The very first verse knocks my home base of fear and anxiety out. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” If I react to things out of fear I have become a clanging cymbal. For myself and for my children I must act from a place of love.
A year ago I had a moment when I realized I was unintentionally teaching my children to live out of fear. Whether we want to admit it or not our kids are watching and learning from us.
They learn by imitation. You know what you are intentionally teaching your children, but what are you unintentionally teaching them?
Being a parent does not make me perfect. I saw the problem and I am taking steps to fix it. I want to give my children a life worth imitating.
Want more resources for helping your kids in their walk with God? Check out our bookstore.