My wife and I live in a small town with a population of just under 1,000 people. And I would say one thing had the greatest effect on our lives. That is, the way our parents set a good example for us and our kids.
Our parents taught us that there is no greater honor on earth than to be a mother or a father. God provides us with tender lives to love and raise up into adults. Yet, how can we properly love our children in one breath, if we push away the Lord in the next?
There is a fundamental connection between our relationship with the Lord and with our kids. Learning how to love our kids begins with learning how to love the Lord. Then, we can effectively raise our kids within the Lord’s will. It begins with how we set a good example for our kids through our actions and words.
What Does it Mean to Set a Good Example?
Children often model their own behaviors after their examples. Likely, your kids watch and observe your actions without you even knowing. When they do, what do they see? What do they hear? How do your actions contribute to their interactions with their siblings and friends? More importantly, how can you guide your kids to set a good example?
In Titus 2:7-8, Paul describes how to set a good example in saying, “…show yourself in all respects to be an example of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech…” Within this context Paul describes qualifications for leaders in the church. As we see, the Lord’s standard for leadership requires a high-level of commitment and character.
As a parent, we know this: the mistakes will come. And when they do, what is your response? How do you treat your kids when they make mistakes or when you treat them without patience and grace? Where do you turn for guidance on how to set a good example for your kids? Paul provides some insight in Colossians: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” In these moments, Paul encourages us to turn toward God’s word and wisdom. So how do we practically set this example for our kids?
A Good Example: Walking with the Lord
A popular phrase within Christian circles is “to walk with the Lord.” Variations of the phrase are found throughout the Bible. Deuteronomy 5:33 reinforces the Lord’s authority in saying, “You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you…”
However, the idea of “walking with the Lord” can seem outdated. After all, it was probably a lot easier to walk with God when He physically met with prophets and leaders of Israel.
Yet, through the Holy Spirit, there is an opportunity to walk with God daily. And it’s not only available to us, but to our kids as well.
We can set a good example for our kids by ensuring they see us walking with the Lord. In my own life, I take a prayer walk every day. In our town, there’s a gravel path where I walk with the Lord. Every day, I commit to spending time walking and speaking with the Lord. Now, even my children and employees know, oh there goes Dave, on his prayer walk. While I walk, I carry a piece of paper with their names and specific prayer requests for their lives.
But the beauty of walking with the Lord is that it there is no limit to when or where we walk with Him. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to feel like we must be an example to our kids. Especially when we didn’t have a good example for our own lives. Luckily, we see a great example of walking with the Lord from an unlikely shepherd boy who became a king.
Biblical Example for our Kids
Imagine you’re the youngest of eight brothers, a shepherd, and all-around unimpressive. Then, you’re suddenly anointed as king of a nation that you know nothing about. On top of that, the current king wants to kill you, your brothers aren’t much help, and you’re running for your life.
This was David’s life. After leaving his home and likely very positive examples in his mother and father, he was suddenly on his own. So, he turned to the Lord as the example for his life.
Despite receiving the Lord’s divine anointing, David waited more than a decade to enter leadership over the nation of Israel. However, he grew closer to the Lord even while he ran from King Saul.
In 2 Samuel 7:18, King David goes before the Lord and says, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” David’s posture reveals how he follows the Lord’s example even when he lacked a mentor in his life.
Following a public humiliation and confrontation of his sin, David writes Psalm 51 to re-establish his commitment to the Lord. In the psalm, David writes, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” When faced with power and authority, most of us turn toward sin and misuse that power. Even when David became king, he didn’t focus on his own ability. While he certainly committed his fair share of sin, David chose repentance, honesty, and humility. And David’s example led to a fruitful reign over Israel. Not to mention, an unwavering commitment from his friends, family, and followers.
How to Set a Godly Example for Our Kids
At any time, David had little clue of who watched him. There were moments where he faltered, committing sin after sin. And there were other moments where his integrity guided him to setting a good example. Yet, David understood the Lord was always watching.
Using David’s example, remember, your kids are watching too. You never know when they might observe the way you speak to your spouse or someone at a restaurant. Chances are your kids could describe your habits with an amount of honesty that might surprise you. So, what do they observe? More importantly, what are some qualities you hope they see?
Someone once said humility isn’t thinking less about yourself, but thinking of yourself less. King David exemplified this in both his personal life and leadership of the nation of Israel.
As parents, we can model humility in how we establish confidence in our kids. You can demonstrate how to teach your kids to value others above themselves. Specifically, show your kids how to listen to others well. Illustrate service to others by serving your kids in their interests such as sports, art, or music.
Devotion to the Lord
Secondly, make time to read God’s Word. God provides specific avenues of devotion to Him through prayer and reading scripture. Whether your walk with the Lord extends over multiple years or only a few months, commit to studying God’s word.
Also, Jesus communicated in the greatest commandment that: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Before we can love our kids with all our heart, soul, and mind, we first must love God.
In your personal life, devote your time to the Lord. Strive to read His word and pray so you can experience fulfillment in your life. Then, you will set a good example for your kids!
Spending quality time with your kids is critical to maintaining strong relationships. Like our relationship with the Lord, our kids require consistency in our commitment to them.
Quality time doesn’t necessarily mean long amounts of time. Rather, it means that you maximize the time you spend with your kids. Whether it is a drive to practice or family meals, ensure you spend quality time with your kids. Consider creating a unique adventure to share together. Or even an activity or conversation within your family.
Finally, don’t forget the power of community. King David would not have succeeded in his role if not for his community’s support and guidance.
In our time, the church serves an incredible role in supporting us as parents. Sometimes our kids can benefit from listening to multiple voices. Ensure that your kids are surrounded by positive role models and good examples. If you need guidance in this area, check out our suggestions on how to create community through food, service, and the church.
You Can Make a Difference
Right now, your status as a parent provides you with immediate influence in your children’s lives. You truly make a difference.
In Deuteronomy 32:45-47, we see the true power our example can have when we diligently follow the Lord’s will. “And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
Although your children may make harmful decisions that affect their lives, you can support and guide them as they grow. We are called to show our children God’s way to live. In doing so, you can set a good example for your children that will impact the rest of their lives.