"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people, It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age."
Parents are always worrying about the best ways to teach their children lessons and to make sure that they grow up to be kind, caring, and respectful adults. The conversation about how to teach children the skills and lessons that they will need as they grow usually centers on disciple: on how much or how little discipline a child will need in order for the lessons to stick. However, it is important to remember that while proper discipline is a crucial part of parenting, it should nevertheless always take a backseat to leading your children by setting a good example for them to follow.
We have all seen parents who display rude and immature behavior in front of their children, parents who, for example, complain loudly and act impatient when waiting in line or who yell at service people when something minor goes awry. Paradoxically, it seems that these same parents are even more likely to yell at and punish their children when the children then display the exact same type of behavior. But how culpable for their actions can children really be when they see such behaviors from their parents on a daily basis?
Christian parents are called to live up to a much higher standard of parenting. While the Bible values proper discipline, it also sees the inherent value in behaving in ways that younger generations should emulate. In the Epistle to Titus, when considering how best to teach godly conduct to young men and women, Paul the Apostle exhorts the early Church leader Titus to:
"Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good." (Titus 2:2-3)
Though not referring strictly to parenting in these encouraging Bible verses, Paul nevertheless makes it clear that teaching by example is the best way to instill good spiritual and worldly habits and behaviors in young people. "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people," Paul continues in Titus 2:11-12. "It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age."
Children base their behavior on the behavior that is modeled in front of their eyes by their parents every day. Parents who do not take care to act in ways that they want their children to act cannot expect to teach their children by simply telling them how to behave. "Do as I say, not as I do" is never a successful parenting model.
As you make your way through the journey that is parenting, make sure that you keep Paul's spiritually motivating words close to your heart. Your behavior will inspire your children much more than any of your words or commands, so be the kind of person that you want your children to be by practicing self-control, temperance, reverence, love, and godliness.