“Actions speak louder than words, and it’s no more true than with your kids.”
– Brad Pitt
“Do as I say, not as I do.”
If you are anything like me, the utterance of this phrase will cause an immediate internal reaction akin to the eruption of a long dormant volcano. This type hypocritical statement is something that I will never understand. Unfortunately, it’s a statement I heard several times as a child.
Parent’s too often want children to live a standard that they themselves refuse to adhere to. For example, they don’t want their children swearing but they allow those very words, that they will punish their children for, to escape their own mouths in anger. Then when those same children call them out on the hypocrisy, they double-down and and make statements such as, “Do as I day, not as I do.”
Even if you have never verbalized that particular statement, if you have one set of rules for your children and another for yourself, your actions are saying it loud and clear.
Psychologist Albert Bandura and many others have established that humans in general and specifically children are naturally inclined to learn through observing the actions of others and then imitating those actions.
Bandura expressed it this way, “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.”
During one experiment conducted in the early 1960s, called the Bobo Doll experiment, Bandura and other researchers demonstrated that children will imitate the violent and agressive actions of adults they observe.
Our children are sponges and they are learning from our everyday behaviour just as much as they are from the specific lessons that we set out to teach them. As a parent it’s are job to make sure that the our everyday actions and behaviour match up to our instructions and teaching.
The Bible charges us as parents to, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.“ That training is not just talk, it’s also action. How can we expect our children to learn and understand the things we are teaching them if our actions do not match our words.
The apostle John said it this way, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” We have to go beyond just words and be intentional with our actions that are being observed by our children.
None of us is perfect and we will continue to make mistakes but when are actions don’t match up to what we have taught are children, we have to put our pride aside and admit our mistake. Asking your children for forgiveness is not a sign of weakness and it will not cause them to lose respect for you. In fact, I guarantee you that they will see it as a sign of strength and will respect you even more.
Jesus is the ultimate father and we should strive to follow in His parental footsteps by teaching our children through action and words.
So remember, teach Christ continually to your children and when necessary use words.