I stepped into my closet and chuckled. My almost two-year old had removed his tiny socks, carried them to my closet, and stuck them inside my shoes.
It was something I had been doing for a while, placing tiny socks inside tiny shoes for safekeeping. It didn’t matter that I had never told him to do this. He had seen me do it; so, he did it.
Mimicking the actions of our parents is something we’ve all done. It’s our natural instinct: to see, to learn, to do. It’s what helps us teach our children the skills needed to live good, productive and meaningful lives. It’s also what challenges us to make sure what we’re teaching matches the good things they should be learning.
But what happens when we forget our children are watching? When our less than desirable actions begin to take root in their once innocent hearts? When their bad attitudes begin to resemble our own snarky tone? Those actions aren’t near as cute as the socks in the shoes, but they’re just as real.
So, what can we do to offset this truth? How can we ensure the good habits impact them more than the bad?
We start by not only telling our kids what is good and right, but intentionally aiming to live it out before them. Living authentically means we purposely invite our children into the process of our striving – and failing – and striving again.
When they see us doing good, they’ll more likely desire to do good themselves. When we own up to our mistakes, we’re modeling for them how to own up to theirs. When they catch us regularly spending time in God’s word, they’ll be more prone to read it themselves. When we take our needs and struggles to God, we’re showing them how to do the same.
Living this way doesn’t guarantee every child will follow suit. But it does provide a marker for them, should they wander off; a familiar place hidden in the recesses of their mind. And when the noise and chaos of their wanderings begins to settle and moments of quiet reflection break through, they will remember.
And if they remember the authenticity with which we tried to live, perhaps it will make a difference in how well they fare. In both this life and the next.
Isn’t that what we, as Christian parents, desire most? To raise up these children God has blessed us with so they will know Him, love Him, and live for Him. There is no greater blessing than to see our children walking with God, knowing they’re secure in Him.
So yes, baby boy, put your socks in mommy’s shoes. And when you’re done, we’ll tuck you into bed. We’ll read a bible story, sing Jesus Loves Me, and say our nighttime prayers.
Then as you sleep, daddy and I will pray for you.
We’ll pray that when you’ve grown into a man, you’ll pick up your own Bible. You’ll read a few verses before bed and be reminded of how much you are loved. Then, you’ll say a prayer and drift off to peaceful sleep.
Just like when you were little, when we remembered you were watching.