Author and speaker John Maxwell once said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
As a parent, one of the most sobering lessons we learn is that our children may not always believe what we say, but they will believe what we do.
A friend of mine recently told me that while he and his eight-year-old son were out riding their bikes, his son hit a bump in the pavement. Instantly, his son blurted out, “Damn it!” His dad was surprised and asked his son, “Where did you hear that word?” His son’s reply was immediate: “From you!”
Two of the most poignant questions for us as parents to ask ourselves are: “What do our children hear in our talk?” and “What do they see in our walk?”
Today, more than ever, our children hear so many voices and see so much through television, video games, and apps like Tik Tok, Snapchat, Yubo, Monkey, YouNow, Whisper, Houseparty, etc. If you are not familiar with those apps, you owe it to yourself to look further into them to see what your kids are seeing.
Even though many voices are competing for our kid’s time and attention, parents are still the single most important and powerful influence that will ultimately shape their lives. I am convinced that very little escapes the notice of children. They may not understand how to interpret every event, but they’re watching every moment.
Below are five lessons kids are most interested in learning from their parents:
1. How We Respond to Failure: Do we become the victim, blame someone else, deny the event even happened, minimize it by saying, “It’s no big deal,” or say, “I couldn’t help it,” in order to excuse ourselves? Or do we model what it looks like to take responsibility, admit our part in the failure, and find the ways to grow from the failure toward a better future?
2. What Matters to Us: Freya Stark once said, “There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.” We can say our marriages and families are our top priority, but is that what our kids see by the choices we make? Is there a gap between what we say is important and what our commitments otherwise say?
3. How We Relate to Our Spouses: Research shows that the best gift parents can give their kids is the security where their children see their mother and father treat each other with love and respect and demonstrate those virtues often and well.
4. How We Spend Our Money: Few choices have as much impact on our kids regarding how we use money and the burden of financial stress. Does the desire for more control us, or are we content with what we have? There is nothing wrong with money or success; however, our kids also need to see us finding contentment in the small things, spending quality time together, and teaching good financial lessons to help them for their futures.
5. How We Invest Our Time: Time is a precious commodity that can be invested or wasted. Studies show the average person checks their mobile device 58 times per day and spends over six hours per day on their screens. With all the distractions competing for our time and attention, we must never forget the best way to spell love is TIME. As parents, it’s hard to make the necessary changes to help us live with greater intention for the people who matter the most in our lives.
After 30 years of marriage and three children, I can testify that the five areas mentioned above are much easier to write about than to live. But it can be done. Remember, we can’t become who we need to be by remaining who we are. Let’s commit to leaving our kids and grandkids more than just memories; let’s leave them a legacy.
Rodney Gage is a family coach, author, speaker, and the founding pastor of ReThink Life Church that meets at Lake Nona High School. His passion is to help families stop drifting and start living with greater intention. To learn more, check out familyshift.com and rethinklife.com.