All of us are teachers. We teach two basically two ways. We teach with words and we teach by example. If your words do not reflect the image and shadow of your example, then words will be looked upon as hypocritical and will be totally rejected. If you smoke cigarettes, it is best not to give anyone (especially your children), teaching on how not to smoke. If you drink alcoholic beverages, your children will most likely do the same. If you are a wife beater, your sons will learn how to do that and will repeat the same actions when they get married.
On the other hand, if you do not smoke or drink or abuse your wife you can be a noble teacher of children or others within your circle of influence. Life teaching is done moment by moment, day by day, situation by situation. When you think no one is watching or listening – think again. Kids seem to receive messages of life by just breathing. How you speak will be the way they speak. If you hit each other, they will hit each other. If you have a sloppy house, they will have a sloppy house and your grandchildren will live sloppy and come to visit and will slop up your house which is already sloppy. Each word you say, each step you take, each decision you make – others watch, listen and learn.
You do not have to be perfect. On the contrary, everyone forgives others of inconsistencies, since we all have them. The emphasis in your life has to be ‘for the right’. Your kids will exaggerate that image when you are dead and gone by saying, “My Mother and Dad were angels”. They will remember that you always tried to do what was right.
Here are the five most important rules in raising kids. Teach, Teach, Teach, Teach, and when you are very tired, Teach! Paul could have been referring to our kids (or maybe us) when he wrote, “They are ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth”(II Timothy 3:7). The writer of Hebrews put it another way. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God” (Hebrews 5:12). Do not be discouraged, just take a deep breath and remember, the entire life of those that follow will rest and abide on the teaching they receive.
Time plus teaching equals mind. We are born mindless. We have a muscle called the brain, but mind is that which comes from teaching – verbal or by example. No teaching – no mind! One plus one equals two, but that is a taught equation. From that beginning we can learn our times table, basic math and on to the unending study of that field. When you say to your kids, “Mind me” (watch out for the tone), just what do you mean? You are saying, “Have my mind”. How can they have your mind unless you teach them? It takes time, effort, energy, patience, sharing. Time plus teaching equals mind. On this foundation let’s build another block.
Mind plus time equals convictions. The root word of conviction is “to bind”. Solomon says, “My son, Hear the instruction of your father and forsake not the Law of your mother, for they shall be an ornament of grace about thy head, and chains about thy neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9). But what if there is no father to give instructions and no mother to issue laws. What do our kids have when they do not know limits or not taught boundaries? How can they test values unless they are taught values. Where do morals come from if not from the teaching of loving parents. Convictions are like chains that bind us to the value system we have received.
Convictions plus time equals character. Character is nothing but convictions put to a repeated test until they are molded firmly within the heart. Character is conviction dipped into the fire of life and tested by the individual until those conviction simply become ‘what the person is’. This is how you can say, “Oh, I know what he would do”, or “I can tell you her response”. We use the phrase, “that is out of character for him”. Convictions take time to be formed into ‘being’. Go back to the foundation. No teaching, no mind; no mind, no convictions; no convictions, no character. It is all based upon the foundation of teaching.
Character (or what a person becomes), plus time, equals destiny. Peter said, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 3:40). The w ord ‘untoward’ refers to a life without direction or destiny. Each day of our life, each decision, leads in a specific direction. The examples we observe, the teachings we receive, the experiences of life simply ‘become us’. We are what we eat, and in the same way, we become what we take into our lives on a daily basis. How does one become immoral, or a drunkard, or a criminal? On the other hand, how does one become a teacher, a Christian, a physician, a leader of home and society? It is all determined by direction and direction or destined is determined by character.