The Right Example

… 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 in parenting is being a good example to one’s children. Some years ago my daughter, Christie, said she wanted to speak to me about something that was bugging her. I could tell by the look on her face that her concern was serious enough for me to put off rushing out to the office and to sit down and give her my undivided attention.

Looking me straight in the eye she said, “Dad, I don’t like the way you’re overloading the van. I think it’s wrong. It’s against the law. You’re putting ten people in a seven-seater vehicle and I’m not happy about it. Dad, I want you to stop doing it . . .”

There was a pause as I sat somewhat dumbfounded by the precise and intense nature of my thirteen years old’s complaint. Several thoughts raced through my mind at once: I wondered why God had given me a daughter who took it upon herself to be the moral conscience of the family. I contemplated telling her to mind her own business. I thought of trying to explain how having her Uncle, Aunt and cousins living with us required judicious use of finances and one way to help balance the household expenses was to save a little on travel costs. And I even thought of arguing how two children would be the equivalent of one adult which meant in effect that we only had seven and a half people in the van and to quibble over half a person was pathetic!

But I did none of the above. I knew in my heart that it would be pathetic, even hypocritical for me to try to justify my actions. So I apologised to Christie and assured her that it wouldn’t happen again.

You see I know how vital it is to be a good example to my daughter. I know that my children might not understand my advice, but they’ll rarely misinterpret how I act and how I live. For example is better than precept. What I do is ultimately more important than what I say. As someone once said, “right example bolsters effectively the fruit of the lips.”

Romans 2:21 puts it in these words, “. . . you then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” That’s a meaty thought for parents. It indicates that what I say to my children should be in accordance with what I know and live by personally. As an old saying puts it, we must “be what we would make others.” No wonder Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing!”

So let’s not forget that everything we say and do sets its mark on our children. Our actions speak louder than our words. If we want our children to grow up right, we need to live right. Which means there’s only “one way to bring up a child in the way he should go, and that is to travel that way yourself” Abraham Lincoln.

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