Last week during homeschooling, my oldest son interrupted me during Bible class. He pointed at my youngest son and said, “Um, Mama…did you know he told our new friends last week that you cuss?”
My mouth fell open. For a moment, I was speechless. Our brand-new friends had just come to our house for the very first time and we had also just invited them to our church…where my husband is the pastor. In horror, I asked my feisty little five-year-old why he would say such a thing. I knew he had never once heard curse words from my husband and I, and the thought of our new, precious friends thinking we had potty mouths was mortifying.
He quickly replied, “Well, because it’s the truth. I’ve heard you say the “stu” word a time or two.”
“Stupid?” I gasped.
“That’s right,” he replied confidently. “You don’t let us say it. We get in big trouble. And you know,” he continued with all seriousness, “you always say “if you don’t hear me or daddy say that word, don’t say it.” Well, you do say the “stu” word, so is it okay if I say it sometimes, too?”
Boy, was I guilty. I explained to him that the “stu” word was indeed an ugly word, but not a curse word. I humbly asked his forgiveness and told him it was not ok for me to say that word if I had asked him not to, and he did not need to say it either. I told him I would not say that word anymore.
In the most mature way he replied, “Good, because it sure didn’t sound good.” With that in the rearview mirror, I immediately called my friend to apologize and set the record straight.
This little incident weighed heavily on me. Although my children are young and innocent, I realized how closely they are watching. My son isn’t even aware of true profanity, but he’s wise enough to know that I had contradicted myself and it “sure didn’t sound good.”
As a whole, I think we fail to see how closely our children watch. When we contradict ourselves and practice half or parts of what we preach, we create confusion. Even when they don’t seem to be watching or when they act as if they don’t care, they have actually listened to our instruction and observed us to see how closely we follow our own commands.
Parents tell their children to stop spending so much time on video games, computers, and phones, yet it’s the parents who cannot look their children in the eye to have conversations because Facebook is more important and has their full attention.
Parents tell their children they need to be in church, yet they are sent on a church van while the parents remain at home or even worse, are given a choice of whether to honor the Sabbath, sleep in, or choose a better activity.
Parents tell their children to find good friends, yet the parents can’t cut ties with old friends who still lead them in the wrong direction and away from God’s principles.
Parents tell their children not to drink alcohol, yet they have it in their own refrigerators.
Parents tell their children not to talk about others; however, as soon as they get in the car after church the parents slander the preacher and other believers the entire ride home.
Parents tell their children to be good sports, when most often it’s the parents who take the game too seriously.
Parents tell their children not to listen to bad music; however, the parent’s radio is often tuned to songs that have messages in stark contrast to what the Christian life should be.
Parents complain about their children never being content, when all they hear from their parents is “I wish I had this” or “one day we’ll have that.”
Parents tell their children to live life to the fullest, yet they see their parents work endlessly to fulfill worldly desires all the while forsaking their family and the one life they have been graciously given.
Parents tell their children to read their Bible and stand on its truths, yet the only time the child sees the parent open their Bible is on Sunday mornings.
Parents tell their children to pray, yet they never hear their parents pray.
Parents tell their children to give, yet they rarely see their parents tithe.
Parents tell their children to watch their language, yet the parents repeatedly and nonchalantly take a most holy God’s name in vanity instead of victory.
As parents, we will never be perfect. It’s impossible. However, we must strive to practice what we preach and when we do fail and disappoint our children, we must humbly ask for their forgiveness and repent. Our children do not want us to be perfect, they want us to be real!
Similarly, we cannot expect them to be perfect or force them to follow our instruction when we don’t even make an effort. We cannot expect them to be followers of Christ if we live fraudulent lives. Our halfhearted obedience will be a stumbling block, and we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves when we grieve with them as they endure trials. The Bible commands children to honor their parents, but we, as parents, must be honorable.
I will forever be a work in progress, but from now on I will make a conscious and deliberate effort to discard the “stu” word from my vocabulary. I am humbled, yet so thankful the baby of our family brought this to my attention. It is my prayer that he, along with my other two boys, will continue to hold me accountable and have open, honest communication while standing on truth.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.