You can seek to develop your child. You can even discipline your child. But you will only mislead your child if you do not demonstrate the values and beliefs you are seeking to instill in your child. A parent must be believable. Make no mistake, your children hear you, but they also watch you. And it is amazing how they replicate what you demonstrate.
My Daddy is Going to Kick Your Dog in the Teeth
One Mother’s Day the girls and I had set up the perfect picnic for their mother. We had just finished up at church. I felt I had preached a solid “A” sermon before a large crowd of mommas and I was now working the plan to honor the mother of my children. The plan included fried chicken, and a nice picnic spread beside a creek at a nearby park.
There were lots of other people in the park also enjoying a great Mother’s Day. All was well. Enter the dog!
Apparently, on this Mother’s Day a young athletic, 20-something-year-old man had decided not to bring his mother to the park, or any female, or any person for that matter. His great idea was to bring his dog to Mother’s Day in the park. He pulled up and parked about 100 yards away from us, but on the other side of the creek from where we were set up. As soon as he opened his car door a large brown Lab came springing out of the vehicle and made clear his intentions. He was going for a swim.
“Splash!” About 75 yards up the creek from where we were having our picnic, the dog hit the water. While the dog found the creek, his owner found a stick. Dog + Stick + Creek = an amazing show. The more the man threw the stick into the water the more the dog loved it and would retrieve it, greatly anticipating another throw into the water so he could do it again and again. The longer this continued 1) more and more people gathered to watch the dog and 2) the closer and closer dog-man brought the show to us.
At the time my girls were small and they were not big fans of dogs. They were getting a little nervous. But most importantly, my wife REALLY disliked dogs. I could tell that my girls and their wonderful mother were doing less chicken eating and more nervous dog watching as the dog show approached.
So, wanting to be a big strong dad and husband, I had a John Wayne moment. “Girls, I am not going to let that dog hurt you. If it comes near us, I will kick it in the teeth.”
Not 30 seconds later Mr. Dog Show threw the stick straight at us and you can now see the scene unfolding in your mind. “Splash!” Here comes Sparky the wonder dog. My girls immediately got up ready to run. Shannon shuttered back, very nervous of the approaching dog. The owner realized what he had done. He had interrupted what had become an almost postcard type scene of a preacher and his family, in their Sunday best, sitting beside a creek eating fried chicken for Mother’s Day.
“I am SO sorry!”, Mr. Dog Show yelled from the other creek bank. Now all eyes were on us. There were probably some people gathered into this scene who were guests at our church that day who had heard my solid “A” sermon. At that moment, it seemed as if all of nature stopped and the world grew silent and still, awaiting my reply to Mr. Dog Show.
On cue, my three-year-old daughter Kiley stood up in her beautiful Mother’s Day dress with a chicken leg in her hand and announced to Mr. Dog Show and all of his fans, “My daddy is going to kick your dog in the teeth!”
You are not raising a child. You are raising a recorder! Your children repeat you! They watch you. Parenting involves development and discipline. But with parenting also comes the pressure to demonstrate. You must be believable.
Parenting is Modeling
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is commonly referred to as Shema. Shema is the Hebrew word translated “to hear.” These verses are recited daily by devote Jews and remind them of the singularity of God and their allegiance to Him and Him alone.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.Deuteronomy 6:4-5
While these verses are doctrinal, the following verses are practical. How do you pass this on to your children? How do you demonstrate that you are truly singularly devoted to God and that you love him with your all?
And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.Deuteronomy 6:6-9
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 describes a home with a steady stream of discipleship and Biblical teaching. Notice that this home doesn’t have “Bible time.” What they believe is all of the time. This IS them. They walk it. They talk it. It forms their day. A Bible is not something they have, it is something they live.
I am a pastor. What I am about to say is going to be a shock for some and it is not for all. You may do it differently than I do it, but we’ve NEVER had a consistent, regimented, family devotional time in our home. Do we encourage and practice private devotion? Yes. Have we tried a dedicated family devotional time? Yes. Did we fail miserably? Yes! And when I mean fail, I mean crash and burn, call 911, epic fail! My kids hated it every time we tried it.
But what I can tell you is that we pray together. We talk about the Lord. We do doctrinal teaching. We exhibit devotion. But it is all a part of our daily conversation. For Shannon and I, Christianity is not something we mandate, it is something we model. We talk with them about the Lord and we let them watch us.
We let them watch us fail. We ask them for forgiveness. We pray for them and with them. We struggle with the Lord’s will before them. We celebrate the Lord’s goodness when it is evident. We seek the Lord’s direction in decisions. We make our girls a part of the ongoing conversation we are having about and with the Lord.
What makes a Christian home is not that you have a Bible. It is not even that you have a Bible time. A Christian home is a home of discipleship and modeling. It is a place in which Scripture is not mandated, but demonstrated.
So, Did I Kick the Dog?
I didn’t kick the dog, but Kiley let everyone in the park including the dog’s owner know what I said. While that story is funny, it reminded me. She repeated nothing I said in the sermon that day, but she repeated perfectly what I said to her. What I said to the congregation wasn’t nearly as important to her as what she sees from me and hears from me with my family. She probably won’t remember 5 of my sermons. She will remember EVERYTHING about me being her dad – good and bad.
The transfer of your faith from you to your children will not be possible if you are not believable. You are raising a mini-recorder! Give them great content to remember!