by Gina Gardner, Steppes of Faith
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8
There’s an old saying that many parents have subscribed to for decades that says “Do as I say, not as I do.” It’s not always expressed this way. Often, out of frustration, it’s just, “Do as I tell you to do, please.” It’s at these times that my boys have questioned what I’ve asked them to do. They say things like, “Mom, really?” Or, “Does it have to be done this way?”
Sure, some of it’s whining and hoping I’ll relent. But sometimes they’re thinking about how to do the job right and what I expect. Kids are sharper than you think. They’re watching us and how we parent. They might notice that they have to do something a certain way, but they don’t see us doing it the same way at all. So they wonder why is it different? How come you get to do it that way and I don’t? It’s a dangerous scenario.
What are we teaching our kids? Are we setting good examples? Here are five things to keep in mind so your parenting stays God-centered, rooted in love and respect.
Lead by Example
I was reminded of this issue of imbalance when we were watching baseball on television recently. One of my kids was yelling at the opposing team. Loudly. My husband promptly told our son that he shouldn’t do that, he needs to use his “inside voice.” I mentioned that he was the pot calling the kettle black. He stared back at me with a stunned expression for a moment. He hadn’t realized he was doing it too.
Correcting others can be easy, isn’t it? But what about when it’s you? What do you do when you are the “kettle?”
Some of us may not even be aware that we are being kettles to our kids. We set rules and boundaries and expect our kids to be obedient, and that’s a good thing. The problem comes in when we don’t hold ourselves to the same standard.
You may have experienced this where you work. Have you ever had a boss who expects you to do this and that and follow company guidelines, but, meanwhile, he’s breaking that rule so often he’s notorious for it? How does it make you feel? Wouldn’t it be better if your boss followed the rules just like you do?
Kids are the same way. They believe that if they must follow a certain rule then we, parents, ought to follow it too. Maybe the issue is about making beds in the morning, or hanging up the towel in the bathroom, or taking off shoes at the front door. They’re looking to us to learn how to do things right, and that’s the way it ought to be. We are supposed to teach and lead them by example.
Do Not Provoke Them
The first nine verses of Ephesians, chapter six, is all about family and how we should treat each other with mutual love and respect. The chapter begins with commanding children to obey their parents, but then it addresses parents, fathers in particular. Verse four says, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
When Paul wrote this command back in the day, it was common for fathers to rule their families with very rigid and domineering authority. It left the wife and children without any say in any family affairs. Their opinions and desires were usually overlooked and beyond the father’s even remotest consideration. It was his way or the highway. You can imagine the mood of the house when the wife and children were there. Unfortunately, many of today’s families are still structured this way.
Ephesians 6:4 is telling us, then, that fathers (and mothers) should not make unreasonable demands and order the family around. Being a parent does not mean that we can be dictators. It certainly doesn’t gain the family’s respect or help the family draw close to God. Quite the opposite, actually.
If parents can’t show love and kindness, how can we imitate Christ? We’re not setting a proper example of who God is, and we’re not creating an atmosphere of love. Why would anyone want to serve the Lord if they’re living in oppressive conditions?
Paul tells parents, both then and now, that we are not to provoke our kids until they are enraged. Instead, we are to teach them the commands of God and discipline them in love. We do this through our imitation of Jesus and the example He set for us as we walk out our personal faith and resist sin. This is how we lay the foundation of godliness in our kids.
Do Unto Others
If you don’t want to be a “kettle” with your kids, the best way to avoid it is to remember that old Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” In case you’re wondering, it is an actual command in the Bible. Jesus gave the command as He was preaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 and it’s one I make a daily effort to keep.
In this portion of the sermon, right after Jesus instructs the crowd to, “Ask, and it will be given to you,” and He reminds them that the Father gives every good gift to those who ask Him, He gives us what we call the Golden Rule. Here’s how He originally put it: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
The Golden Rule isn’t just something we tell our kids to do. We have to do it too. We do unto them as we want them to do to us, and it’s accomplished by setting good examples. If you don’t want your kids talking sassy and snotty to you, then you shouldn’t talk that way to them. If you expect good manners at the dinner table, then yours should be the best they can be. If you expect them to flush the toilet and keep the bathroom clean, then you should be flushing and cleaning too.
It’s only fair.
Set Reasonable Expectations
Create reasonable expectations that are age appropriate. Don’t expect them to do something you wouldn’t do. If you tend to skip corners when you’re dusting, don’t jump on your kids if they don’t get every speck of dirt either or else you risk sending the message, “Do as I say, not as I do,” which can build resentment in your child.
On the other end of things, if you’re the type to keep mowing the lawn until it’s done right, no matter how long it takes, then it’s reasonable to expect your child to mow the lawn the right way too (again, if your child is age appropriate). It’s important to set expectations only to the same level that we know we can reach ourselves; otherwise, we’re not setting good examples of behavior (or work ethic). I’m in this A-type personality camp, but I know my littlest ones can’t physically do all I would like for them to do or to the perfection I personally strive for. At least not yet. So, I need to have patience and forgiveness as I teach them by example.
Our kids are watching and listening to us constantly. They pay attention, and they’re soaking it all up. If you’re noticing an undesirable behavior in your child, take a look at yourself first before you go blaming their friends or the television shows they watch. Are you setting godly examples and reasonable expectations?
Train ‘Em Up
It has become the go-to phrase for many Christian parents: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The question, though, is how do you train up a child?
When a child is born, there’s no parenting manual handed to you. Yes, there are lots of experts, books, websites, and friends out there full of great advice, but none of them knows your child, do they? They don’t know your child’s hang-ups and quirks or his strengths and weaknesses. How do you know what to do?
The only way to know for sure is to go to the One who is the true expert on everything. God knows exactly how to be a good parent (He is one, after all) and He’s written it all down in His book. All it takes is reading about it and praying over your parenting. Training your child begins with your own training.
Let God into the center of your parenting and your home. You’ll be amazed at the transformation.
Throw Away the Kettle
After we come to Christ, we embark on a life-long journey of faith to try to be more like Jesus. We follow His example and apply His holy principles to our lives. It’s as we mature in our faith and bury His word in our hearts that we begin to better understand how to be great parents and to train up our children as we go along.
I encourage you to invite the Lord into the center of your parenting. You’ll soon find yourself less and less of a kettle (or a pot), and you’ll be sending fewer messages of, “Do as I say, not as I do,” because you’ll be setting examples your children can reasonably follow. And the best part is that you’ll find your kids responding positively to it.
Parenting is hard. Let God help you find your confidence and direction so you can teach your children godly examples of love and respect.
Do you sometimes wonder about your children’s behavior? Have you considered the examples you may be setting for them? How has the Bible helped you to be a more godly parent? Let’s talk about how we can stop being the pot and be the parents God has called us to be.
Note: This post contains an affiliate link. Any purchases made through this website will give me a small amount of money that will help pay for lots of upcoming summer camps for my kids, for which we are extremely grateful.
Children need love and parents need respect. Conflict occurs when frustrated parents feel dishonored and kids feel unloved or unrecognized. It’s what Dr. Eggerichs calls the “family crazy cycle.” One feeds the other. In “Love and Respect in the Family,” Dr. Eggerichs describes how to break that cycle and establish healthier family patterns based on Biblical principles.