If you're like me, you tend to look for the part of any situation which may be valuable in helping further your efforts to raise responsible, charactered children. When something happens that isn't "fair", we can easily seize the opportunity to explain how life works. When a bad test grade is earned, the time for a little lesson on sowing and reaping might be necessary. If a new toy is wanted, of course we can sit down and talk about how to earn money, and then how to manage it. As parents, we find ourselves doing this frequently...at least we should.
But what about those times when we aren't aware that we are "teaching"? Those are the moments that make me squirm a little.
Greg and I had an argument several weeks ago. That's a rare thing for us, believe it or not. We are both "first-born" at heart (Greg is actually a middle child, but since his older brother is 8 years older, he has his fair share of "first" traits!), and for several years into our marriage we made a hobby out of arguing. I'm not exceptionally proud of that, but it made for cheap entertainment, I guess!
Since our children rarely hear us argue, they became very frustrated by our recent spat. We explained our "issue" to them, and they promptly told us that it was a stupid thing to fight about, and that Max Lucado had a Hermie movie about silly fights. Apparently ours won the "silly" award, and they were not impressed by our behavior. After some discussion and apologies, the case was closed, but in my mind the effects of our outburst lingered. Although I want my children to know that a certain amount of friction in a marriage is healthy, I also want them to understand that loving husbands and wives do not treat each other in unloving ways. We will have to keep working on that one!
But think about all of the things we do (or don't do) each day that are teachable. When Greg gets up at 5:30 in the morning (after usually getting to bed quite late), he shows our children a couple of things: first of all, as a man he is providing for his family. If he doesn't work, we don't eat. Part of his obedience to God and love for us is exhibited through his work ethic, and I'm thankful that God has given me a man who is willing to work, and willing to teach our children the value of work.
When we shower, brush our teeth, and put on clean clothes, we are teaching our children that we are to take care of our bodies because they are God's temples. We are His "poster children", and it's important to be a good representatives of Christ.
As we work in the yard and attempt to take care of our home, we are instilling a healthy level of pride and stewardship. We tell the kids that God has given us this place for this time, and we will do our best by it and be very thankful for the shelter He has provided.
When the kids see us diligently attempt to keep our bills paid, make wise financial decisions, and give to those in need, they learn to be generous. They may be hesitant at first, but once they feel the joy and fulfillment of giving, they are hooked. And once they understand that money does not grow on trees (the big guys in Washington haven't gotten the memo on that one yet), they temper the begging and greed.
When we gather in our living room with our Bibles, or meet with other believers in our church on Sunday, we teach the importance of worshiping our Almighty God...and our children know of our love for this act by our attitude toward the act itself (drudgery, excuses, excitement, commitment), as well as our attitude toward those with whom we worship (ouch!). How easy it is to carry out the mandates of God or the church and be empty of the love and grace they really require! Our kids aren't fooled by our attempts.
The moments are teaching...and the list really never ends. Each twist and turn in our day teaches our children something. Realistically, we can't ever brush off an incident without realizing that there will be a residual effect, for better or worse.
"Dear God...please make my motives pure and my attitudes right. Help me to control the words that leave my mouth and the thoughts that cross my mind. May I portray to little eyes the importance of being real and being Yours. Amen."