I used to yell. My excuse was that I had three children under three. I was stressed, overwhelmed, and my husband worked sixty hours every week. What I didn't realize was how much my yelling was affecting our children. I started to notice how much our kids yelled. They yelled at each other, they yelled at me, and they yelled at others. They yelled when they got upset and I'd yell at them to "STOP YELLING!". It was a mess.
Thank goodness we serve a God of transformation because I can humbly claim that God has changed me dramatically over the past seven years of parenting. I no longer yell (literally, almost never)... and guess what? Our children almost never yell. I needed to learn the hard way - they follow MY lead.
Many parents talk about discipline and discipleship like it is something that takes place outside of every day life. It doesn't. Discipleship happens every moment of every day. Everything we do, our children watch. They watch, and they learn. They are learning how to behave, what is acceptable, and what is good. I often look deep within and ask myself:
"What am I modeling for our children?"
As a homeschooling family, we have discussed which curriculum to follow so we are learning but also establishing our family's faith and values. We scheduled bible reading and studies and I've constantly wondered if I'm "doing enough" in the way of faith-based teaching. But lately, something has struck me. Jesus taught His disciples, yes. But He largely led by example, didn't He?
Christ wanted His people to love, so He loved.
Christ wanted His people to accept and welcome the outcast, so He welcomed the outcast.
Christ wanted His people to live simply, so He lived simply.
Christ wanted His people to be servants, so He humbled Himself and became a servant.
Christ wanted His people to give up their lives for Him, so He gave up His life for us.
If we are to model Christ, why should it be any different?
If I want our children to love their neighbor, I must love our neighbors.
If I want our children to care deeply about global issues, I must care about global issues.
If we want our children to have healthy media habits, we must model healthy media habits.
If we want our children to cherish the simple things and be thankful, we must model thankfulness and joy in simplicity.
If I want our children to speak calmly and with love, I must speak calmly and with love.
We are called to be a living, breathing example of Christ's love to our children. In the way we treat them, the way we treat others, and the way we live our lives. Every moment, every day. It is both a challenge and a gift. A challenge because, let's face it, it's not easy being a parent and it's not easy living what we preach every day. A gift because we have this blessed calling to live our the gospel in our every day. This high calling to 'train up a child in the way he (she) should go" by also training up ourselves. As we transform, our parenting transforms, and also - the picture our children see every day. We are the example. True discipleship takes place when our children watch how we live and mimic us. Let's strive to give them the best example we can. Of Christ. Of love. Of unconditional acceptance. Of selflessness. Of a life lived on purpose.
Lean into Christ, who transforms. We can't do it alone - but in Him, all things are possible.