Modeling is very important. We all ‘judge’ people more by what they do than by what they say. My kids are no different. No matter what I say, they learn mostly and model closely what they see in me. So I have to be acutely aware of the qualities I'm displaying.
For example, my wife and I are runners. We’ve been doing it pretty much our whole lives. It’s what our kids have seen us do since they were born. Now our three oldest kids are runners. They have talent, but so do a lot of other kids. Talent doesn’t account for the initiative they take to call their friends to meet them at the track. But they have seen us suit-up and head out the door, regardless of the weather, for as long as they can remember.
So how can we be diligent about instilling qualities in our kids (or in people we lead) that we feel are important? A very valuable exercise is to identify the characteristics and qualities you most desire your kids to develop and display.
Simply ask yourself this question, “What are the most important characteristics and qualities I’d like (name of child) to have?"
STOP HERE AND WRITE DOWN YOUR ANSWERS BEFORE MOVING ON.
What does your list look like? Some of the common terms that people identify include: honest, compassionate, truthful, kind, caring, patient, loving, gentle, happy, joyful, competent, hard-working, persistent, resilient, self-confident, thankful, grateful, gracious, generous, good listener, respectful, enthusiastic, passionate, peaceful, positive, optimistic.
If you have more than five traits listed, take a minute and identify the top five characteristics…the order doesn’t matter at this point. As you review each answer on your list, ask yourself this very important question, “How well do I display and demonstrate these characteristics?”
Here’s the hidden value in this exercise. Chances are, the top qualities you chose for your children are also the most important traits you aspire for yourself, whether or not you consistently model those behaviors. Now that you know what they are for yourself, you can be intentional about displaying those behaviors too.
One of God’s fundamental laws is of planting and harvesting. Galatians 6:7 states, “You will always reap what you sow.” It applies to every area of life, including parenting. The law proclaims that I have to first give away whatever I want more of.
So it’s best to be intentional about the seeds we’re sowing. If you have ‘compassionate’ on your list, do your kids see compassion in you? If you had ‘patience’ on your list, do you model patience for your children? I think you get the picture.
The concept is pretty simple. If I want my kids to be compassionate, then they must see compassion in me…I must plant seeds of compassion. Why should we ever expect our children to produce something we’re not sowing? When I tell my kids to be kind, but I’m not, I lose credibility and authority in their eyes.
When I tell them to be positive but they hear me complain when something goes wrong, what message is that sending? How are they likely to respond when they get frustrated or life deals them a bad hand? They’ll most likely respond in ways they’ve seen me respond.
Because I want what’s best for my kids, I know that the qualities and characteristics they develop growing up will be fundamental for their ability to function effectively and be successful in living out God’s call for their lives. A big part of that is developing and growing in Christ-like character.
In case you’re wondering, according to 2 Corinthians, here are characteristics Jesus Christ displayed:
- Gracious & Generous
Whether a Christ follower or not, those are probably characteristics anyone would like their kids to have. If I can help my kids develop those qualities, they’ll be well positioned to live a great life with meaning and purpose. The best way I can help is to be intentional about living them myself…planting as many seeds as I can.
- Make a list of the most important characteristics and qualities you’d like your children to have.
- Narrow the list to the top five.
- This week, be intentional about modeling each of those characteristics. Don't preach them...practice them yourself.