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Give Them Something Great to Imitate

Last week, one of my children made a really negative comment out of the blue.

It caught me off guard and I immediately got ready to launch into a dissertation on why we don’t say things like that. But right before I opened my mouth to give my big speech, I realized something: this child had heard a very similar comment from me recently.

No, it wasn’t a comment I made to them or even when I had realized they were listening, but nonetheless, I had said it and I’m pretty much positive that’s where this child picked it up from.


My children are watching. My children are listening. My children are observing.

It’s been wisely said that more is caught than taught. What are my children going to “catch” from me today? Enthusiasm for learning? Grace for difficult people? Grumbling about interruptions? Critical words toward others?

  • If I want my children to have clean rooms, I need to do more than just tell them to keep their room clean. I need to set an example by keeping my room clean, too.
  • If I want my children to be wise with money, I need to do more than just talk about the importance of financial freedom and stewardship. I need to set an example by practicing good money management skills in front of them.
  • If I want my children to be respectful of other people — no matter who they are, I need to do more than just verbalize how imperative it is that we show respect. I need to set an example by constantly being respectful in my words and deeds for everyone I come in contact with.
  • If I want my children to use their time wisely instead of squandering it, I need to do more than just remind them often to use their minutes well. I need to set an example of diligence and focus in my own time management.

I will never be a perfect parent. In fact, there is no such thing. I need God’s grace every moment of every day as a mother.

I struggle. I make mistakes. I have to ask forgiveness.

But in spite of my inadequacies, I want to do my best to give my children something great to imitate. Because at the end of the day, my children are going to learn more from the life I’m living before them than from the dissertations I give them.

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  • Mona says:

    So many times I hear my kids say something and I wonder where they heard it…and then I realize they’re repeating what DH or I have said. It’s really eye opening to hear your words come out of your kids’ mouths!

  • K says:

    This is so true.

  • B says:

    Thank you so much for this, Crystal. I’ve been there before!

  • Lynette says:

    fantastic reminder..thanks a bunch

  • MK Jorgenson says:

    I’m on day 8 of the 30 Day Shred. I usually do it during naptime, but my oldest (3) has been awake a few times. Today, out of nowhere she says, “I want muscles like Anita.”

    Anita is one of the background ladies; at one point Jillian says, “I wish I had abs like that,” while showing off Anita’s perfect form.

    So while part of me is glad that my daughter is watching me do something healthy, and I guard what I say about health/diet/body image like a hawk, there are still ways for less-than-helpful ideas to pop in…definitely need to remain vigilant about what this girl could (even unknowingly) catch from me. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Courtney says:

    My oldest daughter is 7 and I notice that my mood and attitude makes a huge difference in her mood and attitude. She picks up on everything and it has an impact. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Joy says:

    I loved this post! It’s filled with truth and wisdom. I have never been one of those people for whom change came easily. I would have really good intentions to change and still fall short. I did this in raising my children too. I tried my best to be a good example, but often missed the mark. The best thing about that is, they got to see their mother repent, say “I’m sorry”, spend time in the word, and try again. Even the way we handle our failures is an opportunity to allow God to show Himself mighty to our kids. To allow them to try to get it right when at first they don’t succeed with the knowledge that failure is part of life. My girls are grown now, and even though I didn’t always set the perfect example, they’ve grown into beautiful young women who know who to go to when they fail.

    • Erin says:

      While I think it should remain our goal to set high standards by example, when my own mom failed and admitted she was human always stayed with me. I appreciate the fact that she wasn’t too prideful to show she too needed grace, from me and from the Lord. I totally understand where Crystal is coming from in this post, however I sometimes feel she is so hard on herself when she makes any kind of mistake.

  • Mary Ellen says:

    I catch myself once in a while saying, “I give up.” And my son Maddox (age 6) turns around and says, “Never give up. Never surrender.”

    I’m not a perfect parent either. But, teaching children how to react to things you say or other people say and are wrong can really help them as well.

    Later, I hopefully intend to flesh out a blog post not on the goal of making your child a “happy child,” but one that is capable and resilient. I don’t think resiliency is enough. It is a lot. But, I believe they need to realize they are capable as well.

  • Daizy says:

    So very true!

    Nothing sounds quite so bad as when it’s spoken by your child.

  • Kemi Quinn says:

    Oh wow Crystal. I just posted about this myself =>

    I felt so bad my daughter was learning snarky comments from me. It put me on notice.

  • Victoria says:

    So true and a great reminder.

  • nicky says:

    A wonderful reminder….thank you!! I definitely notice my attitude/mood effects the whole mood of the house!! 😉

  • Elaine says:

    This hit home with me this morning. We have been having trouble with our son and I know it is the result of something he has seen in me. Thanks for the reminder that only by God’s grace can we live and “teach” our children.

  • Lora C says:

    I learned this lesson too. Great post–I am going to share this with my son and daughter-in-law.

  • This post is so very true. I have a 1 year old and it amazes me how quickly he picks up on things. I’ve actually been doing quite a few Bible studies here lately talking about the importance of being an example to your children. It has convicted me to really be active in paying attention to the way I speak and behave. I think it’s when I become passive in watching my words and behaviors that my son sees and picks up on my bad behaviors and shortcomings. Thanks for the post!

  • Bethany says:

    This reminded me of a saying my mom used to say “do as I say not as I do” .. Children are like sponges and will parrot back things they have heard you say or imply. Once I was mad at a mom that cut in front of me during the school rush hour, and I got upset. My son said “mom calm down — maybe she’s having a bad day” .. Kids keep you honest thats for sure

  • I had a similar ah-ha moment recently.

    My 12 year old has started saying “But seriously, do you have to blah blah blah.” It comes out really obnoxious and whiny. Then I realized where he picked it up. I regularly say things like, “Seriously guys, can we go one morning without whining” or “But seriously, could we not pick up our mess here.”

    So now I know that I probably sound obnoxious and whiny too, and I am trying to a little more cognizant about my words.

  • Anita Q.Krohn says:

    While a great reminder, in my mind and experience, I think these very principles need not only to be demonstrated but directly shown toward our very own children. To not just be an example of respect to others but to show respect to our children, to not just keep a clean room but help them clean theirs, to not just be an example of thrift but give them the vocabulary they need to talk down a yard sale price :); teach the value (or lack of value) of ‘things’. It make take more effort but it shows how we value our time and our children. We can show them how much more important they are to us than other people, a clean house or things/money. Thanks for making me think about these valuable tenets. I appreciate the reminder and hope to put a better foot forward this morning! 😀

  • Jackie says:

    This is a wonderful message. Thank you. I needed this right now because I have some areas of my home that need my focus and that is probably why my youngest two boys are having a hard time keeping their room clean. “Monkey see, monkey do.” 😉

  • Jen says:

    Wow, thanks for posting this, so much to think about.

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