‘Leadership is caught, not taught’
You may have heard the above quote. It is true that leadership is more caught, than it is taught, and this principle is broad reaching.
How does this truth relate our children?
I think every parent that has been parenting for five or more years would have a funny or embarrassing story of this principle at work in their children. Children are like little sponges soaking in the culture around them, and children are most exposed to the culture and atmosphere of the family home.
Movies illustrate this so well. There was a movie I liked growing up called Big Daddy. Though inappropriate in many ways, the movie captured this ‘caught, not taught’ principle wonderfully.
In classic Adam Sandler fashion, the main character Sonny (played by Adam Sandler), is a self-focused and irresponsible young man who sits at home and essentially does nothing. When his girlfriend breaks up with him, he has an in-genius plan. When his friend Kevin is on a business trip to China, Sonny finds out that Kevin has a son, so in a last ditch effort to save his relationship with his girlfriend, and prove to her he has grown up, he offers to take care of the child.
Sonny unwittingly really likes the child, and applies for full custody. What ensues is a story of the importance of fatherhood and the influence of role modeling. The young boy eventually starts to imitate Sonny’s behavior, the good, the bad and the ugly. The result is a funny, unforgettable movie that illustrates the power of role modeling.
The movie is funny because it is true, and we have all seen it play out in our worlds. From the child swearing in the supermarket isle to the embarrassment of their mum or dad, chuckling nervously, to those unique expressions your children do that you realise they got from you! The revelation is real! And when we see this in our children, these moments are opportunities to reflect on how we as parents are modeling the behaviors we see exhibited in our kids. Not as a shaming or blaming exercise, but an opportunity to pivot and change what we do.
Let’s Get Practical
So what can we do to model healthy relationships to our children?
1. Watch what we say in front of our children
Should we be talking negatively about others with our children present?
How do we talk to our spouse in front of the kids?
Is what we say when our children are present helpful or even OK for our children to hear?
2. Watch what we say to our children
Do we talk at our children, or do we engage in respectful conversations with our children?
Do we allow our kids opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings without judgement?
Do we listen to our children attentively?
Do we show interest in our children’s interests?
Do we reflect back to our children what we think they are trying to say?
Do we listen empathetically to our children’s struggles?
3. Watch how we treat our spouses
One of the primary ways our children learn to relate to the world around them is by watching the way their parents relate to each other.
Are you modelling behaviour with your spouse that you want your kids to emulate?
Is there any behaviour you exhibit to your spouse you need to stop doing?
How can you openly highlight your spouse’s strengths in front of your children? The family home is like a greenhouse where your kids learn about relationships. They will catch the good, the bad and the ugly no matter what you formally teach them. This presents each family with a present opportunity.
The family home is like a greenhouse where your kids learn about relationships. They will catch
the good, the bad and the ugly no matter what you formally teach them. This presents each family with a present opportunity.
What will you model to your children?
Isaiah 48: 18-19
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
In our humanness we have all made mistakes in this area. No parent is perfect and we are all a work in progress. As the above scripture suggests, let’s put the past behind us, learn from it, and move forward into God’s good plans for now. Now is the time to make adjustments to our behaviour, so that we leave a legacy of relationships in our children that we will look back on and be proud of.
Let’s Get Practical
1. Get a journal and a pen
2. Find somewhere quiet to sit and reflect
3. Submit your time to the Holy Spirit
4. Answer these questions by writing them in your journal
- How am I positively modelling healthy relationships to my child/children?
- Is there anything I need to stop doing?
- Is there anything I need to start doing?
- What new thing is God doing in me that I need to grab hold of and partner with, in this area of modelling relationships to my children?
5. Read through what you wrote
6. Pray, thanking God for the good you are doing and asking for his grace in your areas of weakness
Thank you for the privilege and blessing of raising children in my home, and Lord you know my strengths, my weaknesses and my failings. You know where I struggle and where I thrive and you have deliberately placed me in a family of different personality types, strengths, weaknesses and talents, for this was your glorious will for me to grow and develop in a family of love and acceptance. Jesus please help me to be a better role model of relationships to my children and change what needs to change in my heart and behaviour that my life would be a blessing to my children. In Jesus name. Amen