My second son, Ezekiel, reminds me so much of myself. Just looking at him makes me reminisce about my childhood days. Physically, he is just how I look when I was a kid. People we knew would comment on how he is my “carbon copy”. My mom would even say that some of his antics are the same things I do when I was kid….and maybe some of them until now (that is according to my wife). It is unmistakable that I am his father!
Do not get me wrong though. I love Ezekiel in the same way I love my two other boys, Elijah and Eliakim. My wife and I do not play favorites. Actually, (and scientifically because of genes) our children display a lot of traits and natural behavior that is similar to us. And if ever they have a certain behavior that is outside their “natural” character as small children, we are confident to say, by God’s grace, that it is a result of their consistent and regular training at home… except for their rowdiness at times.
I would often encounter the saying “tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are” and there is much debate as to whether or not this is true all the time. The Bible nevertheless teaches us that “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harms.” (Proverbs 13:20). Whatever and wherever we are exposed to would likely have a major impact in shaping the kind of person we are right now.
It is the same in parenting. Our children’s attitude and behavior reflect the kind of parents that we are. Think this is unfair? “It is indeed unfair to expect children to behave properly at all times! They are playful and energetic! You cannot expect them to be prim and proper, just seated at their chair, reading a book and not making any noises! They can be annoying but they are little children!”. So before any of us react that way, there is a line of behavior that we have to draw.
My three boys, similar to other kids, are normal “kids”. They love active play! They ran around, roll on the ground, mess up their toys, create high pitch voices, jumps like a rabbit, draw characters on our walls, splashes water all over our bathroom while taking shower, actively play again after taking shower and the cycle goes on. And honestly, our patience are tested all the time! They are KIDS indeed!
But we distinguish their behavior that involves a matter of the heart. This refers to a behavior that affects and reflects their character. Values such as obedience, respect, and truth-telling are non-negotiable in our family. If the behavior causes an offense on any of those virtues, we immediately step in and impose corrective measures as may be necessary.
While corrective measures such as discipline and “heart to heart” discussion are necessary for our family, those measures are reactionary. We try to balance this by a proactive approach: Modeling. Modeling to our children is the most effective
way of teaching them about life. Modeling is the most powerful way of shaping their characters. The way parents live will be a child’s pattern for his or her own life. Since action speaks louder than words, our children learn better from examples rather than lectures and exhortations.
My heart is burdened to see parents who want their children to grow loving the Lord, yet they do not love the Lord themselves. How can a parent teach his child something unknown to him (parent) in the first place? We cannot give what we do not have. We cannot impart what we do not know. We cannot pass on a legacy of faith unless we possess it in the first place.
To desire that our children grow in a certain way is one thing; to lead them to that way by showing them how to go there is another. We can have a long list of rules that we expect our children to follow but unless we observe them, the list will be senseless.
David Jeremiah, a pastor and a well-known author, has this to say on modeling for our children: “Modeling is incredibly important in the process of parenting. We learn far more from what we see in our home than what is said there. Long after our children have forgotten what we have said, they will remember what we do………Parents communicate acceptable lifestyles far more by modeling than by speaking”
As parents, we have a powerful opportunity to influence our children. We have to live up to the challenge of influencing their character, behavior and conduct. We
have unlimited access to impact their development. I am not just talking about the careers or professions that we want them to pursue but becoming the kind of person that God intended them to be. The challenge to us is to be faithful in this calling. Otherwise, they will get their pattern and influence from some other sources and if that happens, we have no right to complain and even ask how they end up becoming a person we do not intend them to become.
Honestly, I have reservations teaching my children to be like me. I look at my life and all the mistakes I did, I am certain I am not a good model for them. My imperfections, despite my perseverance to walk in the faith, is something that is not worthy to be emulated. Unfortunately, (this is with a sarcastic tone) they do not have any other model that has this much influence on them other than my and Rona’s example. We are the ones whom they can see daily in the privacy of our homes, where we are most transparent and stripped of any image than we have to project in our careers.
I can teach my children all day who Jesus is, what He is like, what are His tendencies, what are His attributes and how he lived His every day but unless they see it from us, Jesus will just be one of the fairy tales that they will hear. We know that the Bible is true and everything it says is relevant to us until this very day. Therefore, our kids must see the teachings of the Bible come to existence…. and we are their actors and actresses in this stage called life.
Paul taught the church at Corinth “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”(1 Corinthians 11:1). We desire to say that to our children all the time. We know it is never easy. Our children will pursue varying interests as they grow up but imitating
the values, virtues, mind and character of Christ must be primordial wherever God places them. Sorry parents! This may seem to be an insurmountable task…. but their first picture of God and the first pattern of Jesus is no less than us, their parents.
In becoming a faithful model to our children, we must aspire to grow in the faith. Parents, do not expect to raise godly children if we do not have personal convictions about God. Unless God intervenes in the life of our children through His foreknowledge of what must come to past, our children will inherit and display the kind of values that parents model to them. How we model to our children is what they will become. Show me the character of a child and I will tell you the kind of parents they have. The kind of parenting we practice will always produce the kind of person our children will become.
Ezekiel had a funny yet meaningful (as far as I am concern) conversation with his Mom the other day:
Ezekiel: Mommy, can you buy me big glasses, like this big (making circles around his eyes).
Rona: Ok. Why do you like to have glasses?
Ezekiel: Because I want to be like Tatay!
Rona: Ok. Ok. Will try to find one.
Ezekiel: And can I have like this on my face? (his fingers as if putting dots on his face)
Rona: What is that?
Ezekiel: Like the face of Tatay! Because I want to be like him! (referring to my pimples and blemishes).
I almost died laughing when my wife told me about the story. I suddenly realized that my son wants to copy almost everything about me including my defects and imperfections! That is sort of scary! If I am not careful in what I model, my children will inherit wrong sets of beliefs and values which will shape their character as they grow up!
My wife and I are still works in progress. We still sin. We commit mistakes. We are perfect examples of the meaning of imperfection! By God’s grace, we learned that the only way to rear godly children is to direct them to love the Lord above all else. Our examples show dependence on God’s grace. To model Jesus is to know His ways through His Word, preach His ways unfiltered and live His ways solely through the power of the Holy Spirit. To rear them to a relationship with their Creator is “caught rather than merely taught”. Teach by modeling. Lord willing, our children will become our reflection which, by God’s grace, must become a reflection of someone perfect…. Jesus.