Thursday, January 6, 2011

Teaching and Modeling Values to Our Children

So this year I decided that rather than trying to make my children all things all at once, I would slow down and focus on one thing at a time. I have that personality where I want it all and I want it now but God is teaching me that just about everything in life is a process; especially if we want whatever it is to become a part of who we are. This year our family theme is respectfulness. I want my family, including myself, to learn to be respectful no matter the circumstances, no matter the choices of others, no matter what everyone else is doing, no matter what.

We all want respectful children but many of us aren't sure how to get there. Our children come in to this world as sweet, innocent creatures but give it a couple of years and it seems as if the devil himself has taken up residence. Just take a trip to your local Chic-Fil-A or children’s museum and you will see for yourself. The children cut in line, snatch from others, and hit their parents and that doesn’t include behaviors that are too unsightly to convey. Many of us even have children like this and if we were honest with ourselves, we could say that we have no idea how it happened or how to change it. Growing Families International, an organization centered on parenting, has a motto that they teach: “Begin as you mean to go”. It simply means to think about where you want your children to be in 20 years and begin where you want to end up. If you want your children to grow in to respectful, caring adults, then model for them a respectful, caring adult and love them enough to discipline them.

How do we model the behavior? Well, ask yourself these questions: Do your children see you disrespect authority by crossing the street when the sign says “don’t walk”? Do they see you being rude to the waitress because your order was wrong? Do they hear you say not so nice things about the person that just cut you off in traffic? These may seem like meaningless actions that have no relevance on training our children but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Think about it. When we cross the street at the wrong time, what we are really modeling for our children is that it’s ok to break the rules when it’s convenient. Ezra 7:25-27 speaks against this and Romans 2:13 calls those who obey the law righteous. When we are rude to the waitress our children see that it is ok to react negatively to our feelings even if it hurts someone else. When we curse the guy who cut us off in traffic, we are teaching that it is ok to talk behind someone’s back. Galatians 5:22 says that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. If we want respectful children we must model respect in every area, even if it seems futile and the best way to do that is to be so connected to the spirit of God that you begin to exude the fruits of the spirit. You can’t help but grow fruit when you are attached to the vine. Jesus says in John 15:5 “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”.

But what about discipline? So many of us see discipline as negative; as something that could scar our children for life but I don’t think discipline, in the true sense of the word, is meant to have the connotation that many of us associate with the word. The root word for discipline is “disciple”. Disciple means to teach or to train. Sure discipline involves chastisement sometimes, but the majority of discipline involves training. So, if we want our children to grow up to be respectful adults we must be willing to disciple them with instruction, clear expectation, accountability, relationship and yes, sometimes chastisement. Deuteronomy 6 instructs us to make these values a part of who we are and what defines us as a family. We can’t just talk the talk; we have got to walk the walk.

So for me and my family, even when it gets hard and no one else is doing it, we will choose to glorify God in all that we do including being respectful, and when I mess it up, as I know I will, I will seek forgiveness; not just from God, but from my family as well, for being a poor example and model of Christ to them. Then I will pick myself up and keep persevering and reaching for the goal but more than anything I am going to become more intentional about staying attached to The Vine.

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