Model Before You Mandate

(This post was written by Michael Wallace, High School Pastor)

As a parent, I often have a hard time keeping my kids in line.  Do you?  I’m pretty sure Joseph and Mary are probably the only parents that got a pass on this one.  Parenting is tough, and I love finding ways to make it more simple.

Last week I had the opportunity to help teach one week of a six week small group on “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity.”  It was great to connect with other parents who share the common goal of becoming the most effective leaders of our home as possible.  While teaching, I stumbled upon a nugget of truth that I seldom apply to my life:  I must model before I mandate.

Without a doubt parents have the most potential to influence their kids.  Over the course of their lives no one will have more chances to impact your kids, by their actions or non-actions, than you will.  This got me thinking…do I use all this potential to tell Colt and Emmy what to do?  Or do I put emphasis on showing them what to do by my own actions?

It’s easy as a parent to focus all of my efforts on ensuring that my kids make the right choices.  I feel that I constantly say, “choose to obey” and “don’t say no to me” and “stop standing on your sister” (ok, that last one may be specific to my family…) But the truth is that I don’t put nearly enough energy into creating opportunities to say, “obey like daddy obeys” and “love like daddy loves” and “put your family first like I do.”

Before God challenged us to influence our children, He first puts the challenge to us to make changes. “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-7

It is crucial that we model before we mandate. Kids care much less about what we say than what we do, especially when they don’t match up.  How well do these two things line up for you?