The other day our toddler said to his Daddy, “Be gentle.” This was after his Dad tossed his toy phone onto the sofa. He used the same words that we say to him when he throws thing into the sink instead of putting them there.
It goes to show that if we want our children to learn from us we have to set an example. We can’t say to them, “Be gentle” or “don’t throw things” but we are doing it. Or we can’t say, “Don’t shout” but we raise our voices. We can’t get anything past them and that’s good. They keep us on our toes and call us out when we are breaking our own rules.
If we want our children to care for things or people, we have to show them how. If we want our toddler to handle his toys and other things with care, we need to do the same. We are his role models. We have to make sure that our actions match our words. We can’t say one thing and do the opposite. That will send the wrong message. We want our toddler to trust us because we are consistent.
Jesus wanted the disciples to be humble and serve one another. In order for that to happen, He demonstrated this for them. After He washed their feet, He said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14, 15). In other words, “if I want you to humble yourselves and serve one another, I have to do the same. And that is why I washed your feet even though I am your Lord and Teacher.”
So it is with us. If we want a desired behavior in our children, we have to exhibit that behavior too. Our mindset should be, “If I want you to be gentle, I have to be gentle.” “If I want you to be considerate towards others, I have to be considerate too.” “If I want you to be helpful, I have to be ready to lend a hand too.” We have to become the kind of people we want our kids to be. This is not hard. With God’s guidance and help, we can do it.