parenting demonstrate title blog

3D Parenting – D3 Demonstrate

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!

Here’s a great article on the power of a dad being a role model for his daughter.

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3D Parenting – D1 Develop

Dogs and cats reach maturity in about one year. Most species of songbirds leave the nest in 3 weeks. A lion is considered to be a fully-grown adult at age 3.

If you have children, you’ve probably figured out by now, this may take awhile!

And it should take a while to raise a human. While animal maturity is generally measured by height or sexual capability, there is a lot more involved in teaching a person how to be an image of God. While the lioness teaches her cub how to find food, your job as a parent should involve a little more than finding a burger for Bubba. God has entrusted you to not just tell your child about sex, but to teach them sexuality. You are not just trying to see how tall your son will be as a man, but you are to teach him how to be a godly man. Your objective as a parent should be to just find your kid a scholarship but to release them into the world as a mature image of God.

The Bible has a lot to say about parenting. This is no surprise since raising a mature image of God is such a critical responsibility. There’s a million ways to slice this, and most will do it much better than I, but when it comes to the basics of Biblical parenting, think 3D!

  1. Develop
  2. Discipline
  3. Demonstrate

Develop

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6,

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

At the outset I need to say about this verse, this is a Proverb, not a promise. A Proverb is a general observation about life. It does not guarantee a result, but it gives you guidance toward wise ways of dealing with things. The formula for a proverb is this is what works, but there are exceptions. In this case, the exception is seen in a passage like Deuteronomy 2118-21. The indication there is that this child departed when he got older. The fact that his parents did train him in the way he should go is what makes the Deuteronomy 21 scenario so tragic. This is not a child brought up in neglect or abuse. This child is a rebel.

Rebellion is a tragic possibility in the parent/child relationship, but this does not negate the parental responsibility to “train the child in the way he should go.” What does that mean? Two things are critical for development. Train = an environment of reinforcement. In the way he should go = content. As a parent, develop means that your home is going to be one of consistent content.

Train Up a Child – An Environment of Reinforcement

The idea of training in this passage is the idea of reinforcement. Training is the environment of the home. It is an intentional, nurtured culture that offers a consistent pattern of opportunity to help the child grow in maturity.

A child is not just told to mind, a child must be trained to obey. A child cannot simply be told to share, they must be trained to be generous.

Much like a trainer at a gym sets goals for the athletes he trains, the parents have in mind the values and core beliefs that will be reinforced in the home. The trainer sets up his gym so that his athletes can make consistent gains through repetition. Is your home set up for consistent gains?

Have you taken time as a parent to think through the core values and beliefs of your home? If you were asked by someone to list them, could you? If you can list them, could you give examples of how those core values and beliefs are being reinforced with your children?

As they say, you inspect what you expect. Parenting is takes intentionality and kids need reinforcement. If you tell your child, “I’m only going to tell you this once” then it must NOT be important!

Revisit your values. Reinforce them over and over. Be consistent as a parent. Be willing to say it over and over again, each time training your child how to behave and why good behavior is a blessing.

In the Way He Should Go – Content

Training involves content. What is the content of your home? The primary content that is being reinforced in your home, does it come from television, social media, or video games; or does it come from conversation and interaction with you as a parent? As a parent, you can’t farm out content. You are the gatekeeper of the content of the home.

I recently listened to a podcast that told the story of a young girl who kept asking her father questions. Being a busy man, he told his daughter to write down her questions and he would answer them later. At 9 years old, the girl returned to her father 50 deep, meaningful questions like, “What is love?”, “Is there life after death?”, “What is the purpose of life?” Heavy stuff for a third grader! Three years later, dad is STILL trying to answer her questions!

As the podcast continues, you find out that the little girl wasn’t as concerned about having her questions answered, as she was about getting her father’s attention. Her father was always on his computer. The reason she wrote down so many questions was because she wanted conversation, interaction – CONTENT.

Parental Advisory, Don’t Over-Parent

In our culture we have not only a propensity to “under-parent” by putting a device in our kid’s hand and sending them off to fend for themselves, but also to “over-parent.” By “over-parent” I mean that the reinforced expectations of training are too much, they are overbearing, they are impossible.

The word “train” that is translated here in the Bible implies that you do not raise the child to be what you want them to become, but that you raise the child to be what God wants them to become. In this instance, train means that you are paying attention to your child’s giftedness, talent, and interests. You see their inclinations and you adjust your training accordingly. Parenting is not cloning, it is development.

I work with a high school football team as chaplain. From time to time I stop by practice through the week to connect with the players and encourage them during the tough grind of game preparation. As a pastor, I always enjoy watching the coaches as I am interested in how they lead, motivate, and develop student athletes.

Most of the men on the coaching staff were great high school and/or college athletes. One of my favorite coaches I have ever worked with was a quarterback at NC State. He was a young guy and an extremely gifted athlete. At the time he was working with our team there were not five bodies we could tie together that would even come close to accomplishing what he was able to do as a high school quarterback. But what I loved about him was that he NEVER compared the kids to himself. He very seldom used the word “I.” He was not trying to produce another version of himself, but he was trying to push the kids to become the best version of themselves as men and as athletes.

Parenting is not Cloning

Parenting is not cloning, it is development. Too many kids fail to launch because they feel like they have failed long before they even got to the starting line. Because they are different than their parents or may have made some choices that their parents would not have made, they have been made to feel as if they failed.

Another scenario I see too often is a parent trying to make up for his own disappointments and failures through his or her kids. While every parent wants his or her child to learn from their mistakes, your kid is not your best chance at a state championship, or a better job than yours, or even a better life than yours. You can’t live vicariously through your kids and think that sets them up for success. It only pigeon holes them for a pathway to failure.

Development means that you are helping your child find their God-given calling. As a parent, you are God’s steward to help train, develop, and reinforce the critical content that will help them fulfill God’s call in their lives.

In my own home, I have two daughters. Though we raise them reinforcing the same Biblical, core values and beliefs, we realize that they are very different people with distinct personalities. My eldest daughter is a leader. My youngest daughter is an artist. Daughter #1 got a kayak for her birthday. Daughter #2 got a guitar for Christmas. One daughter doesn’t want to be talked to before 9am while the other can’t get enough hugs.

Know your kids and tailor your content.

Taking Steps Toward Development

As a parent, think reinforcement and content. Reinforcement, sit down and write out the core values of your home. Evaluate your consistency in reinforcing these things. Is it working? Is your child getting the message? Are they beginning to demonstrate those desired values in their behavior? Why or why not? Are there things in your life that make that message inconsistent that need to be reprioritized?

As far as content, are you acting as the gatekeeper of your home or are you farming out parenting to a device, television, or video game system? Is your child getting attention and conversation from you? Are you paying attention to their bends, gifts, talents or are you just trying to make them another you? Are you seeking God’s direction for their lives?

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