Yesterday was a fun day with the family. There’s not anything more entertaining at Christmas than watching little ones open gifts; they are so transparently honest in their reactions. I remember a few years ago (quite a few years) when our nephew opened a gift from his grandmother. I think he was around six, and in his mind, things wrapped in boxes only qualified as gifts if they were toys. He tore open a box with unbridled excitement to discover a shirt. Oh, the look of disappointment on his face! He tossed it aside with the comment, “A shirt!?” Of course, his mama made him say thank you, but we all laughed. Kids are just honest.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of helping our 4-year-old granddaughter put together the tiny, tiny pieces of a Lego set. She was excited; it had two miniature people and was a mini bakery, complete with a window, a cash register, and a little outdoor table. I was surprised at how well she could interpret the directions, as each page showed a picture of what piece to place where, and in what order. She was concentrating so intently, trying to snap together one of the pieces when her hand slipped and knocked something apart. I did a double-take when I heard her say, “Oh, dang it!” I had to laugh.
I’m sure that’s not the worst thing that she’ll pick up along life’s journey, but it did remind me that children are basically little sponges and little parrots. It was illustrated even more later in the evening as she played teacher with one of her dolls, giving instructions. It was obvious she was imitating the words, phrases, and tone of voice she hears at preschool as she patiently showed the doll how to “do a craft.” It was a great reminder that if we hear our little ones saying things or exhibiting an attitude that’s not good, we probably need to examine what they’re hearing or seeing, both at home, at school, or with friends. The flip side is also true – they pick up on kindness as easily as the less-desirable virtues! Eavesdropping on a 4-year-old is enlightening.
I love observing kids’ behavior because their transparency has so much to teach us about our relationship to God. Am I grateful for all of God’s gifts, or am I ungrateful and rude when He gives me something I didn’t choose? How about my words…my attitudes…my tone of voice? Am I imitating Jesus, or picking up the culture around me?
In Matthew 15, Jesus has a discussion with the Pharisees. They were upset because His disciples did not wash their hands in the traditional way prescribed by the elders before they ate. They were concerned about outward appearances; they wanted to look religious, but their hearts were far from God. Jesus said it is not what goes into our mouth that defiles us, but what comes out of it, because the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man (Matthew 15:17).
Our words and our attitudes reveal our hearts. We’re like little children; we simply can’t hide it.
My mom used to sing a song to us…Oh be careful little eyes what you see, oh be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little eyes what you see. It goes on to talk about what our ears hear, our hands do, our mouth says, and where our feet go. Such good theology wrapped up in a children’s tune; it still rings in my heart today as a reminder.
So, what’s today’s takeaway?
As adults, we ought to examine our own words and attitudes for two reasons. First, are we pleasing to God, and second, to be aware of the example we’re setting for little ones to “soak up” and “repeat back” to us. As influencers of the next generation, we must be diligent and aware of what is going into the minds and hearts of our children. This applies to not just what comes out of our mouths at home, but everything they see, hear, and take in (music, movies, books, friends, teachers, etc.). Everything influences for good or bad and we do have an enemy who would love to destroy their lives. Never apologize as a parent for setting limits or restrictions that protect your child’s heart and mind. It’s your job. And if you are seeing or hearing things in your children that bother you, let it be a warning sign to examine the influences in their lives.
Little sponges…little parrots. Can we confidently say with Paul, Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1)? May God give us all sensitivity to make sure the ones following behind have good examples, so that they grow up knowing who God is, and desire to walk with Him all the days of their lives.