Example is better than Precept

“You then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” Romans 2:21

Being a parent isn’t always easy. Personally, I think the biggest challenge I have as a father is to be a good example for my children. I’m in good company. Abraham Lincoln said, “There is just one way to bring up a child in the way he should go and that is to travel that way yourself.” That means my example is better than my precept. What I do is ultimately more important than what I say. And even though my children might not understand my advice they’ll never misinterpret how I act and how I live. Allow me to elaborate:

Romans 2:21 says, “… you then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” This verse confirms the fact that what we say to our children must be in accordance with what we know and live by personally. It reminds us that “right example bolsters effectively the fruit of the lips” Anonymous. And it teaches us that “example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing!” Albert Schweitzer.

I’m therefore convinced that example schools our children. Actions speak louder than our words. As an old saying puts it, we must “be what we would make others.”

Thus, if we want our children not to fight then we must control our tempers. If we want our children not to condemn then we mustn’t criticise. If we want our children to be well-mannered then we must be polite. If we want our children to be honest and fair then we must be true and just. If we want our children to share then we must be generous. If we want our children to be long suffering then we must be patient. And if we want our children to follow Jesus then we must follow the Lord.

In other words, it’s in the daily life of the parents that children gain their most indelible impressions. We can therefore only appeal to our children on the basis of our own example. It’s what we are that influences our children more than anything else.

The anonymous poem, The Little Chap, serves as a fitting postscript:

A careful man I ought to be –

A little fellow follows me.

I do not dare to go astray,

For fear he’ll go the self same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes.

What’er he sees me do, he tries.

Like me, he says he’s going to be –

The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,

Believes in every word of mine.

Wrong steps by me he must not see –

The little fellow who follows me.

I must remember as I go,

Through summer’s sun and winter’s snow,

I’m building for the years to be,

The little chap who follows me.

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