“What is important to you?” our pastor asked. Before I had finished making a mental list, he continued, “Your children know by your words.”
“Your children know.” These words keep ringing in my mind. Children know what is important to us by what they hear: by our words to them and in front of them.
Our words can either be like “apples of gold in settings of silver” or “full of deadly poison.” (Prov. 25:11; James 3:8)
The Scriptures command us to teach our children the ways of God. Consciously or not, we teach our children all day. We encourage them and reprimand them. We teach them the path they should follow. We talk to them about what we think is important.
Teaching our children the truly important things
Is cleanliness important? Our children know it by how often we remind them to wash their hands or clean up their room.
Do we want our children to be good friends? They know it by the way we encourage them to play together and share.
Are good manners important? Then they’ve heard “Sit up straight,” “Say ‘yes ma’am,” or “Say please” countless times.
Listen to yourself for a day. [This might not be fun. It wasn’t for me! Some of my priorities were way off. But acknowledgement and repentance are the first steps toward change, right?!]
- Are the character traits that you are encouraging by your words the most important ones for your child to be learning?
- Are there some areas that are so important, your child has mastered them and you no longer need to constantly remind them?
- Are there character traits that you should be teaching your child, but aren’t?
Of course, it’s not just what we say to our children that molds and trains them. What we say in front of them (and how we say it!) is equally more important. We must be careful what our children hear!
We can tell our child to “be respectful and obey” until we’re hoarse, but if we then talk disrespectfully to our husbands or disparage our mother (or mother-in-law!), our own words contradict us.
Children are natural imitators.
- If we want our children to be grateful, our mouths should overflow with thanksgiving for the many, many, many, many blessings God has given.
- If we want our children to love their family, then we shouldn’t be complaining about the piles of laundry or countless messes we face because of them.
- If we want our children to joyfully worship, then our own lips should spill over with songs and prayers from our heart.
As sinners, we will fail. Without Christ’s mercy, we can’t raise godly children. But He has promised to give us wisdom and grace if we ask: wisdom to teach our children in His ways. Grace to teach them by our words to them and in front of them of the truly important things.