Hearing my oldest speak in a harsh tone to his brother, I reminded him, “You need to use a kind tone of voice, one that builds your brother up.”
He looked at me and with hesitation said, “But Mom, sometimes you don’t respond to us in a nice voice either.”
Ouch. That was painful to hear, but it was true.
One of the foundational passages in scripture on which I have built my parenting has come from Deuteronomy 6:5-8 where it says:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
This passage has formed the way I instruct my children. It is the reason I seek to use every opportunity to point my children to the gospel.
But when my son pointed out to me my inconsistency in what I teach and what I do myself, I realized I was missing a crucial part of this passage.
The command to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength precedes the verse to “impress them on your children.” Effective training and instruction flows out of my own love for the Lord. The truth is, I can’t teach, train, and discipline my children in the Lord if he is not the center of my heart. I must love God with all that I am first, before I can instruct and lead my children.
We often fly together as a family. And to be honest, I hardly pay attention anymore to what the stewardess says before takeoff. But one thing I do remember is the instruction to parents to put on your oxygen mask first before putting it on your child. The same is true when it comes to raising our children to know and love God. The gospel is my life breath. If I haven’t breathed it in myself, I can’t share it with my children.
It seems obvious, but too often I go through my days at top speed with rarely a thought to the gospel. My mind is focused on my to-do list, errands, and homeschool. By the end of the day I am frazzled, worn out and short with the kids. It’s no wonder because I haven’t drawn my strength from God. I haven’t fed my starving soul on the truths of his word. Instead of being strengthened by the truths of the gospel, I have run in my own strength.
My son’s comment to me reminded me of an important truth: only when my heart is fed each day and is full of love for God, will it then overflow to my children. Only then can I teach them the truths of the gospel, everywhere, all the time, and in all situations.
Christina Fox (@toshowthemjesus) is a homeschooling mom, licensed mental health counselor, writer, and coffee drinker, not necessarily in that order. She lives in sunny South Florida with her husband of sixteen years and their two boys. You can find her sharing her faith journey at To Show Them Jesus and on Facebook.