I know yesterday I said I may not be around here much this week, because my family and I are on vacation. But with the house quiet, and everyone else still slumbering, I thought I’d try to work something out that’s been percolating in my head.
Those of us familiar with the Christian, and Jewish, scriptures know this passage:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, ESV)
The intent here is a didactic one–namely the teaching of one’s children–and there is nothing wrong with that. There is much that we need to teach our children, and the home is certainly the place we do it. If we are to pass on our values, this where it happens.
The home is also a crucible, where what we (parents, for instance) say we believe is viewed through the lens of our actions. Children, almost more than any others, are quite adept at sniffing out hypocrisy. They see us at both our best, and our worst.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t be about the business of moral instruction? Far from it. It means that we should put in all due diligence to ensure our walk matches our talk–because more often than taught, values are caught.
Kids will emulate our behavior(s) first before they ever try to obey our dictums.
The preliminaries out of the way, there’s another aspect of parenting I’d like to address. One which, admittedly, I’ve not done so well at. This is the notion of being a student of one’s children, of being instructed by them.
Truly, if I’ve taught my children anything at all, I’ve learned much more from them in return. I don’t necessarily mean in the didactic sense, but in the arena of (often) uncomfortable truths about myself. I can be quite selfish, and as such try to push more than just my values, but my interests on them as well. But God didn’t make them to be clones of me (or my wife), but to be their own people, with their own interests.
Yes, we lay the bedrock of common values, but from there the sky’s the limit on what they can become. We guide, we shape, we mold–we “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov 22:6, ESV).
In my mind, the training referenced in this verse is quite different from the training in the Deuteronomy passage. The one speaks of the inculcation of values; the other implies being a student of one’s child/ren. Because if I believe that God has given me certain natural talents, abilities, inclinations, what of my children? Within the framework of a God-conscious life, what are their gifts? How can I help them develop those?
Notice the wording of the verse (“in the way he should go”). Note what it doesn’t say: in the way you think he should go. <--Therein lies the surest path to resentment that I know. Admittedly, this is uncomfortable. As parents, we will likely find ourselves engaging activities that we have no interest in for our kids' sake. But is this not what love does? Sublimates its desires for the good of another? I submit that it does. Do I think that my son, for instance, might be missing out on some things right now by not sharing my love of certain things? (Did it sting a little when he called The Hobbit boring?) Yes, I do. And he may, or may not, come around.
And that’s okay.
What do you think? How are you doing at training your child/ren in ways of God, while at the same time supporting their interests?
PS On an unrelated note, I’m taking part in Clay Morgan’s March Movie Madness 2, and have made to the second round. This time around my character, Sam Gamgee, is up against Will Hunting. Please click here to see the other matchups, and most importantly, Vote. For. Sam.