Thursday, July 21, 2011

In the Looking Glass - A Parent's Reflection

“The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” –Proverbs 20:7
A child first learns through observation, and as development progresses, though imitation.  In their diligent mimicry you will find a reflection of yourself, your words, your actions, your attitudes, and your faith. Anyone who has or has had a toddler is aware of their shadowing and echoing tendencies. When you are not even aware that you say or do something until you hear or see your 2 year old doing it, this discovery can be a rude awakening. We have all seen the cliché movie/comic/tvshow scene where a parent exasperatedly asks, “Now where did you learn a thing like that?” and the laugh track begins…. From the outside we know EXACTLY where that child learned it…from the only source available to him…the example his parents have set. 
 When my two year old put her baby doll in time-out, lovingly explained her offense and punishment, waited for an imaginary timer, made the doll apologize, gave her hugs and kisses, and warned her not to repeat her mistakes, I was pretty proud of myself.  Her language skills are just beginning to take form and I am always thrilled to hear her newest use of words.  When she asks me first thing in the morning, “Did you have good dreams?”, or tells me, “Good job, Mommy. I am so proud of you.” It makes me smile. I proudly recall using these delightfully familiar phrases before her speech arrived and it’s great to know she was listening. However, when she tells our dog “Stop barking, Sophie. Do I need to beat you?” or says, “yah yah yah” in response to a correction,  I am instantly humbled.  (FYI: We don’t actually beat our dog, it’s just a phrase I used in frustration when I didn’t know anyone was listening).
 Our pastor’s message last Sunday was about “having peace with God and having the peace of God” about your life.  I feel I can best assess the peace I carry about who I am by recalling something I learned in a child psychology course:
“When parenting is not delivered justly and deliberately, the worst case scenario is your children can turn out just like you.” So, I ask: Am I at peace with that possibility?  Am I okay if my children have the same limitations, fears, weaknesses, and vices as me? Will I have peace knowing my children have been passively trained to think like me, act like me, react like me, and cope like me? Can I look at my reflection with confidence? My child’s curiosity and eager imitations don’t take in to account who I would like to be or who I have been. Who I am right now is the example I am setting. My home, my lifestyle, my environment, my friends, my habits, and my hobbies are leaving a lasting impression on my child.   God takes the role of our Father, but in our disobedience and confusion, instead of yelling, grounding, or the dreaded “do as I say, not as I do”, He sent Christ as a living example for us to follow.
When my husband and I adopted I Timothy 4:12 (“….set the believers an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.”) as our family motto, we dared God to make us good examples through humility and growth.  We challenged ourselves to become aware of our influence, our training style, and our modeling. We continue to strive to follow Jesus, in order to properly convey His example in our parenting. And when we wonder how we are doing…how much we have grown…or if we are still on track…all we have to do is look at our reflection: our daughter.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” –Proverbs 22:6

…here is to knowing exactly where they learned it from…and being at peace.

1 comment:

  1. Very encouraging for me because though my children are grown and I haven't any grands yet, I am starting on a new adventure this fall helping teach the toddlers at Bible Study Fellowship. I really needed to hear your sweet words of how worth it is our witness!