If I’ve learned one thing from more than 13 years of parenting, it’s that I’m being watched. Always. Everyday. Nearly every hour. Except when I’m sleeping, though, because that would be creepy. Although my children have been known to stand by our bedside in the middle of the night and stare at us like Children Of The Corn! It’s a little terrifying to wake up to.
Truth is, my children are studying me closely. They’re watching my behavior, taking note of my decisions, tuning in to every word I speak, and modeling the steps I take. It’s all under observation.
As you can imagine, this means I have to stay on a consistent high level of responsibility. Wow! Can I be honest? This is really hard to do and I screw up a lot. Big confession, but it’s true. I don’t necessarily screw up in big ways. Often, I blow it in small ways- attitude, language, over-reaction to meaningless things, etc etc. Unfortunately, I’m learning that small mistakes, left un-checked over time, filter into my children and come out in their words and actions.
Several weeks ago this happened. It was late in the evening and my wife and I were sitting on our bed discussing a frustration we both had over a situation one of our kids was in. Our youngest son lay sound asleep (or so we thought), on a mat on our bedroom floor. As we vented, and talked openly, we suddenly heard a small voice repeat some of the comments we’d made. It was quite convicting when spoken by a 6-year old. A few days later I heard him repeat to his sister, what he’d heard us say!
My children are studying me. Your children are studying you. That’s what children do. And they will copy our behavior, whether it’s positive or negative, integrity-filled, or marred by sketchy character. Here are 7 behaviors our children will learn from us:
- How you treat your spouse. If you are kind, sharing, giving, supportive, caring, and treat your husband or wife with respect and dignity, your children will treat your spouse with respect and dignity. If you’re degrading, belligerent, frustrated, or rude to them, your children will treat them the same way.
- How you manage your money. If you are in massive amounts of debt, or spend money frivolously, your children will spend money frivolously. They will carry a lesser value of money, and spending habits that match, into their adult years. They will copy the same lack of responsibility they saw in you. They too will live in debt. But if you exercise wisdom, stick to a budget, save and plan, they will do the same.
- How you treat other people. If you are always using people for your own gains, or constantly belittling or mistreating people you encounter, so will your children. If you treat the waitress at your restaurant, or the teller at your bank, like dirt, they will devalue people the same way. However, if your approach to other people, especially those who are performing a service like waitressing, is kind and respectful, your children will learn to treat others with respect.
- The amount of respect you give to authority. If you are rude to a police officer who pulls you over, or always rant about how awful your boss is, your children will grow up with a lack of respect for the authority figures in their life. This includes you! But if they hear you always talking about your boss with kindness and respect, even if they might not deserve it, their view of authority figures will be positive, even when they might not deserve it.
- Your level of character and integrity. They know if you cheat. They know if you say one thing and then do another. They are listening to the way you talk about people you encounter in public, or the frustrating neighbor who gets under your skin. When you face a crisis or unfair accusations they’re taking note of how you respond. The level of character or integrity you choose to live by, goes a long way in determining how your children will choose to live.
- How disciplined you are with your life. If you overeat, overspend, sleep too much, get behind on your bills, drink too much, let the house go, always take short-cuts, or make excuses for poor choices, guess what? So will your children. If you constantly make unhealthy choices with your diet or you lack exercise or fitness, it will not be a value to your children. However, if you model a disciplined life, and healthy living is a high priority for you, your children will make better (and healthier) choices with their lives.
- How generous you are. If tithing to your church, giving to a charity, or supporting a cause isn’t high on your list, it won’t be on your children’s list either. If you choose to not serve others, your children won’t serve others either. If you sign up for a good cause and then slack off when you’re participating and choose not to give a strong effort, they will see that, and do the same. However, if they witness a person who lives life with a giving spirit, always reaches out to those who have the least, and a person who gives from a full heart, they will emulate that behavior and become people who give, love, and serve with all of their heart!
I have to tell you, this is a convicting list to write. I’ve failed at all of these. It’s time to get to work. I want to raise children who become healthy, productive, people of strong character and integrity. How about you? Fact is, we will not end up with those types of results by simply intending to do what’s right. It takes pro-action. If I’m not moving in the exact direction, with my own behavior, that I want my children to move in, they will never end up at a healthy destination. Andy Stanley has a great quote that says this- “Your direction, not your intention, determines your destination!”
There is no greater place to apply this truth than raising our children.
Have you blown it with one of these behaviors? What do you need to do different?