Our Children Learn What We Model
My husband, Keith, and I love babysitting our grandchildren.
On one occasion I showed our two year old, Logan, how to form red Play-Doh into the shape of a smile. I placed it against my lips and said, “Smile.” Logan smiled. Then, we divided the blue Play-Doh in half and made two balls for eyes. Holding the balls up to his blue eyes, he said, “eye.” I thought we were doing a great job with our arts-and-crafts/vocabulary lesson.
Then, Keith walked in, saw what we were doing, and joined the fun. Except he took the red Play-Doh smile, hung it from his nose, and said “Kachoo!” with a big laugh. I probably don’t need to tell you what happened next. Logan put it to his nose and said, “Kachoo!” Then he cracked up laughing.
I immediately envisioned Logan in preschool one day misbehaving with his Play-Doh and gave Keith “the look” to please not repeat the gesture.
If what we taught our children were limited to Play-Doh, everything might be all right. We might simply laugh off what they learn through our example. However, our kids learn much more than silly antics by watching us.
For one thing, they either learn to be kind, prayerful people or they learn to be snooty people who provoke others. How can we make sure we’re raising our kids the right way?
What I Learned from Two Moms
I love picking up parenting tips from others mothers. Apparently, a lot of us do. We follow mom blogs. We get ideas from Pinterest. Another place I pick up tips is from the Bible. One day, I ran across an account of two moms who parented by example in totally different ways: Peninnah and Hannah.
Seeing how these two moms influenced their children struck me to the core. I realized my children would imitate the way I treat people and also how I relate to God.
First Samuel tells us Peninnah intentionally provoked Hannah to irritate her.
Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.
1 Samuel 6-7
It’s one thing to unintentionally annoy someone. It’s another to intentionally provoke someone. It’s not difficult for us to imagine what Peninnah’s children learned by their mother’s example. Nor is it hard for us to understand why Peninnah’s children aren’t mentioned in the Bible beyond this chapter.
On the other hand, we have mom Hannah, whose son, Samuel, is one of the greatest men in the Bible. What kind of a mother was Hannah? Prayerful and faithful to fulfill her vows to the Lord, even under difficult circumstances.
What Are We Modeling to Our Children
Which describes us: prayerful or provoking? Which describes the kind of children we want to raise?
What we model has a lasting effect on our children.
Sometimes, amid the stress, strain, and busyness of life, we may realize we’re more like Peninnah than Hannah. If so, what can we do?
- Ask God to show you what is contributing to your irritability. Do you need more sleep? Do you have a hormone imbalance? Is work stressful? Are you angry because your husband doesn’t help you? Do you feel life is unfair? Talk to God about whatever is on your heart. Take your Bible, journal, and pen with you into your prayer time. Write down what He impresses on your heart.
- Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit so you’re a Spirit-filled mother (Galatians 5:22–23), not an irritable one (Galatians 5:19–21).
- Model to your children how to walk by Christ’s Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
Will we be perfect moms? No. Can we be aware of what we’re modeling and pray to better model Jesus to our children? Yes.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Adapted excerpt from The Plan A Mom in a Plan B World: How to Raise Faithful Kids in a Flawed World. Published by Leafwood Publishers. Copyright by Debbie Taylor Williams. Used with permission.