Teaching our kids the truth – what is right and what is wrong – within the context of relationships is vital. Our young people will most likely need to correct various behaviors and patterns as they grow and mature, i.e. – avoid pornography and resist sexual pressure – and they will be much more receptive to that instruction and, in fact, empowered to live according to those instructions as they sense your unfailing love. But they need more than to feel your love; they need to see that love lived out before them.
The apostle John said, “Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:18). For our kids to embrace our beliefs, adopt our values and make right moral choices, they need to also see truth modeled in our own lives.
When we (Josh & I) saw unhealthy attitudes or wrong actions in our children, we, of course, corrected them. But we learned that our efforts really weren’t effective unless our kids could answer yes to three very important questions. Their answers told us whether we were being the right kind of model or not. For example, when I saw something that Kelly did wrong that definitely needed to be addressed, I would ask these questions:
1. Kelly, do you know that I love you?
2. Do you know that I love your father?
3. When you get married, do you want in marriage and love and sex and family life what I have with your dad and you kids?
If Kelly would answer “yes” to each of those questions, I knew I was in a great position to guide her. I could say, “Kelly what you are doing can rob you in the future of the kind of things you see me enjoying in my own marriage.” Because Kelly was seeing a model of relationships she could believe in, she was far more receptive to my instructions. If our kids don’t see it, it will be hard for them to believe it.
The apostle Paul said, “Pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example” (Philippians 3:17). The word “example” in the Greek is tupos, which means a pattern or model to be replicated or reproduced. Paul was saying that his life was a model to be followed.
Your life and ours are also to be a model for our kids to follow. No, we aren’t perfect. In fact, there is no such thing as perfect parents. But even in our imperfections we can model humility and be people who seek forgiveness when we’re wrong.
I (Dottie) remember a time when Josh and I were in a heated discussion in earshot of the kids. At one point in the argument Josh got quite animated. He threw a folder down on the table and said, “I’m out of here.” He then stormed out the door and drove off. And none of this went unnoticed by the rest of the family.
But it wasn’t long before Josh was back. He called everyone in for a meeting. In front of all the kids he told me how wrong he had been. He said he was sorry that he hurt me emotionally and sought my forgiveness. He then turned to the kids and told how disrespectful he had been to their mother and sought the kids’ forgiveness, too. Now, Josh’s earlier actions were far from a perfect model, but he was, nonetheless a great model of what you do when you blow it.
Believe it or not, your young people need to see you fail and humbly seek forgiveness as well as see you as a model of right living. Paul explained how he had brought people to God “by my message and by the way I lived before them” (Romans 15:18, NLT). It takes both our words of truth within the context of relationships and our lives as a model. We “show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:18).
- Bonus Chapter from Straight Talk with your kids about sex