When it comes to raising children, your words and how you say them are powerful, but there is nothing more powerful than living what you say. Learning how to speak to your children and living out what you speak is so much easier to talk about than to do. I am speaking from personal experience, and from the experience of others that I have spoken with over the years who have been truthful enough to admit it. Saying and doing do not always see eye to eye.
Maybe you can get by with it when your children are young. Maybe you can get away with living a mediocre lifestyle where you compromise your values and character while your children are young. Maybe you can even act like you are perfect and untouchable by everything that life can throw at you, but eventually your children will grow up. And, as they do, they will be watching. They will be taking notes. They will be seeing if what you have been telling them is true or important in their lives as seen in how you live out your own life.
Your children want to see… they NEED to see integrity, honesty, and realness in your life, and not just hear about it. When you choose to be transparent and real with your children – even as painful as it can be at times – THIS is what will have the greatest impact on their lives, their character, their success, and their future. Your children WILL grow up, and when they do, what will they remember most? They may remember your words, but mostly, they will remember your actions and the consistency of your life to live what you say.
Every parent wants the best for their children, and maybe that is why good parents set the bar high for their children, but this does not mean that as a parent we neglect to set the bar as high for ourselves. Scary thought, I know (speaking of my own life). Try as you might to live what you say, you will blow it at times. You will make mistakes. Yes, you will even fall flat on your face as you seek to live out what you are teaching them. It happens. When it does, your children will be watching, and they will remember how you dealt with it, worked through it, recovered from it, and moved on beyond it.
Like I said at the onset of this essay, learning how to speak with your children and living out what you speak is so much easier to talk about than to do. Speaking from personal experience, when you DO blow it or fall short in your expectations for yourself or the expectations of your children, don’t try to cover it up or pretend it did not happen. This is not what a child needs to see, no matter how old they are. Living in this kind of hypocrisy, where you pretend everything is fine and you can do no wrong, opens the doors of distrust and unbelief in your children’s hearts.
Things NOT to do if you want to raise healthy children:
- Don’t insist that you are always right.
- Don’t insist that your opinion is the law of life.
- Don’t present yourself as perfect and without sin in their eyes.
- Don’t allow pride to blind you from the hypocrisy in your own life that they will see if you are not real with them as they grow up.
- Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you are without mistakes, shortcomings, or sin in your own life, while holding your children to a higher standard.
Doing any of these is a huge mistake in teaching your children the important lessons of life.
Things TO do if you want to raise healthy children:
- Live your life as if the whole world were watching the movie of your life, with your children sitting on the front row.
- Be real with your children about your failures and shortcomings, and use these as life lessons for your children or those you mentor.
- Be transparent in how you live your life so that your private life, family life, public life, and church life all look the same.
- Be honest with your children, even when the truth is painful for them or you.
Living out what you say to your children is not a walk in the park. Being real with yourself and others can get messy, but our children need to SEE realness. Our children need to see not only our willingness to turn things around, but how we turn things around when our life gets turned upside down or we fall short of our expectations or their expectations of us.
The big take-away in this essay? Yes, you may get dirty in the process. Yes, mud on your face is not pretty. BUT, the powerful nature of truth, transparency, and that of leading by example always proves to be the best strategy in raising children.
Don’t settle for mediocrity in your life, and don’t settle for it in the life of your children. Speak and live the example of character and success that you aspire them to become. When you do this, everyone wins.