I had managed to avoid politics all year, but that changed last week when my oldest daughter had to watch the first Presidential debate for a school assignment. I couldn’t let her suffer alone, so we settled down to watch the debate together. Meanwhile my younger daughter, Autumn, was making cards in the kitchen. From there she could still hear the debate. After about 30 minutes Autumn said “Mom, they’re not being a leader.”
When I asked her what she meant, she said “They’re talking bad about the other one.” This did not meet Autumn’s expectations of a leader. She has been learning about being a leader the past two years at school through a program called The Leader in Me. The program encourages each child to learn to be a leader by choosing to listen to others, work together, and be respectful – the complete opposite of what she was seeing from the two people trying to be our nation’s next leader.
Children have a way of seeing things just as they are, don’t they? We can teach concepts all day long, but they notice if what they see lived out doesn’t match up to what’s being taught. Thankfully, Autumn is in a great school, and she does see those leadership qualities lived out each day. She also notices when she doesn’t see those leadership principles practiced other places, such as in that Presidential debate.
It is so important that children see a consistency between the words and actions of adults in their lives. When they don’t, it leads to confusion at best, and cynicism and complete rebellion at worst.
I can’t control how those candidates behave, but I can control my own influence. I need to make sure that my actions are consistent with what I teach. I need to lead by example.
If I teach my children that their lives should be full of the fruits of the Spirit, then I myself need to be patient, joyful, gentle, and kind.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
If I teach them to find their joy in the Lord, then I need to exhibit that joyfulness myself. If my joy comes from another source, they will surely notice.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4
If I teach my children to control their anger and their words, then I must also control my temper. I can not talk in a hurtful way about other people or to other people. If I do, then I can not expect that my children will behave any differently.
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Colossians 3:8
If I teach my children not to complain, but instead to make the best of a situation, then I need to do the same. (This is the hardest one for me. I have to confess I was the one heard saying “Having to watch this debate is ruining my night!”)
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; Philippians 2:14
If I teach my children that they are blessed and they should be thankful for all they have, then I shouldn’t spend my time wishing for what I don’t have. I need to constantly express my thankfulness to God for all that I do have.
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
If I teach them that the things on this earth don’t last, and then focus all of my energy on earthly pursuits, it won’t make sense to them. Instead, I need to focus on eternal pursuits. My actions will reveal what I truly believe.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
If I tell my children that God should come first in their lives, then I can not let other things come before Him in my own life. Allowing other interests, ideas, and thoughts to pull my heart away from God will speak louder than any words.
And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ Matthew 22:37
Do I want my children to follow Jesus? Then I need to lead them there – not just with my words, but with my life. When it comes to being a Christian, I don’t want the reality of what they see to not meet the expectations of what I’ve taught them. There’s no fooling them. Even when we think they’re not paying attention, those children are listening and watching.
Do we want our children to follow Jesus?
Then let’s not just tell them what a follower of Jesus looks like.
Let’s show them.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23