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Modeling Godly Behavior
We hear a lot about teaching our children to have “godly behavior” or to be “Christ-like” in their words and actions. I completely agree that we need to teach our children this behavior, but, I think, it may even be more important to show them this behavior, modeling godly behavior.
Children learn by watching. They model what they see. Being kind to the clerk at the food store will teach them to be kind to others. Collecting coats and food for the needy will teach them to love others as God loves us. Calmly discussing with your husband why leaving his dirty socks and shirts on the floor is frustrating to you will teach them to resolve conflict with out yelling or violence.
…well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 1 Timothy 5:10
We’ve all heard the saying “actions speak louder than words”. This is particularly true for children watching their parent’s behavior.
Children learn priorities, morals and values by looking at how their parents behave each day. If the children see that their parents have a deep reverence and dependence on God then they will learn these same attitudes. Let the children see how important God is in your life by reading the Bible together on a daily basis.
Reading the Bible with the children and teaching the child lessons from the Bible.
However, child learns more by what they see than what they hear, therefore imitation is a far more powerful principle of teaching than memorizing Bible verses or stories. Not that you should stop doing that. It’s a great way to model how much God means to you and how the Bible applies to your life.
In addition to the most common Bible verses about parenting (ie: Train up a child, etc.), we can turn also to 1 Thessalonians 2:7,11-12, and find a passage that might change how you parent. In it, Paul writes:
Instead, we were like young children among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children…
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. –
1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11-12
Eye opening, isn’t it? For the first time, we see Paul as a parent, of sorts. And as we looked more closely at his example, we discovered that his primary goal was not enforcing right behavior from his “children,” but rather developing a God-shaped identity in them. His letters almost always started with a warm greeting followed by a reminder to his readers of their special identity in Christ. Only after laying this foundation, did he address concerns about behavior.
My Own Experience With Modeling Godly Behavior
When my youngest was just a grade schooler (he is now a grown man of 23!), we were traveling in the car to pick up his brother at soccer practice when a truck cut me off. I slammed on the brakes and heard my son yell “***hole!”. What??
Exasperated and maybe more than a little upset, I asked him where he learned that from. He shared that “Jacob’s” mom (some names may have been changed to protect the innocent), always says it when another driver ‘does something bad”. Ouch. This was a great reminder that not just their father and I were modeling behavior for them and that not all modeled behavior is good!
What your children SEE you do and what they HEAR you say, will instruct them more than any lesson or conversation you could have with them. Of course, talking with your children about how to treat others and how to love others is important, but children model our behavior while they don’t always listen to what we say.
In the verse “Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6, God is instructing us to train our children on behavior that is pleasing to Him.
“Train up”is from the Hebrew “chanak”, and means to nitiate, or instruct; Dictionary.com defines “train” as: to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of (a child or other person) by discipline and instruction and when it comes to training, actions speak louder than words.
Even though all of our children are now grown, it is still important to model good behavior for them. When my daughter sees that I greet my husband at the door with a smile and a kiss and have his favorite sweet tea ready while dinner is finishing up, she sees how a wife should honor her husband.
When my husband and I did not spend the night with each other while we were dating or engaged, it showed our kids that sex is sacred and a gift from God for a husband and wife. When my husband holds doors open for me or compliments me on my hair or the meal, he is modeling treating others with kindness and how a man should treat his wife.
Now, it is important to recognize that, of course, children misbehave. That is how they test their worlds (and their parents). If, however, your children are behaving in a way that you don’t believe is God-honoring, before disciplining them, take a few moments to consider where they learned that behavior.
Have you acted out in anger, recently? Did they over hear you using profanity – even in the form of a joke? Considering where and whom your child modeled that behavior from should help you in ascertaining what type, if any, of discipline is warranted. Perhaps your behavior needs correcting, too.
We are not perfect, mom. None of us are. We all fall short and we all, at times, behave in ways that displease our Heavenly Father. Like children, we need correction and to observe others modeling godly behavior to train us.
Surround yourself with friends who love the Lord. Attend church and Bible Study. Read Christian books and watch Christian movies. Your children are watching and they will see you modeling godly behavior.
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 –
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” – 1 Peter 2:12
What about you? Share, in the comments below, a time when your children modeled your behavior – good or bad and what you both learned from it.