model behavior.

Kids imitate.  

If you don’t believe me, sit in on a preschool classroom.  If three little girls are playing house and skipping in circles, holding their babies and one is in the floor playing with blocks….give it two minutes.  The majority action reigns supreme.  

Children’s actions, in large part, are learned.  They are modeled.  If a child is talking back, hitting, defying orders, yelling “no!” incessantly, testing out foul language, not sharing, being selfish…..

They are picking it up somewhere.

Obviously, some actions (because we are born sinners) are inherent and flow out of our tendency (as humans) to push the limits and see what we can get away with.

But most are learned.

I remember 4 years into my stint as director of the kids program at our church, I had a mom come to me at her wits end. Her daughter had bad manners, was disobeying constantly, had adopted a potty mouth and was becoming unbearable.  “What do I DO?!?!” she asked.

I decided against my first response, “Ever mix in a swat?” (another post for another time).

Instead, knowing her family and personal situation, I offered something I knew would work.

“Fix the older siblings, the TV, her playmates and yourself and you will have a solved problem”.

A little presumptuous coming from a 23 year old with no children, I know.  All I was armed with was a college education and several years experiance.

But within that education and during those years of sitting, playing and observing kids, I had learned:

Kids are learning their behavior’s DAILY.  Somewhere.  If it isn’t from you, its from a sibling, kid at school, teacher, playgroup, Dora the Explorer, music, DVD’s.

Choose wisely what your kid soaks up.  


I write about this because, last night, this was perfected by an imperfect parent.  

I learned a lesson.

I met a friend for dinner/dessert and when I walked in, I found her on the phone.  Not like her.  She would be ready (early) and sitting there, waiting to talk and armed with a hug.  She looked slightly overtaken with an emotion that I couldn’t figure out.  Nothing bad, just distracted.  So I sat with her and she concluded her conversation.

My friend is a mother of 5.  Kids ranging in age from 9 and younger.

And as she spoke, I heard her apologizing.  See, there were some actions that had lead to her becoming angry with her kids before she left to meet me.  A string of events that had caused her to shout.  Not a righteous anger.  

A down and dirty, ugly anger.

And I witnessed a mom, modeling behavior.

“Micah, I wanted to apologize for yelling at you before I left.  It was wrong and I was sinning.  I know you understand why I was mad, but it was wrong and God wasn’t pleased with me. Im sorry I chose that. Will you forgive me?”

She then apologized to each of the kids, individually.

Each time, modeling behavior.

To them.

To me.




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10 responses to “model behavior.

  1. Nicely put Rachel. Although . . . well, some kids are just born a little bent IMHO. I know a perfectly nice couple with three delightful, enjoyable, polite children – and two that I wouldn’t choose to spend time with for love or money. In my own house, I have one who argues incessantly and we tried everything with him. Finally he was diagnosed with ADHD and in reading through the literature, one of the big symptoms is . . . incessant arguing. He doesn’t argue to be defiant or even because he really cares about the issue. It’s an impulse control issue.

    But most of the time, with most kids, you’re right. They pick stuff up from their environment.

  2. love this post! i’ve often toyed with the idea of righting a parenting book with a BIG chapter in it about the appropriate use of parental apologies – your friend “hit it out of the park”!

  3. Kat

    Serena, being in school and girl scouts, encounters kids whose parents don’t have the same convictions we do. I can’t always be there to tell Serena the right thing to choose, and I am glad for that. She needs to learn to make up her own mind on things, and even at the ripe ol’ age of 7 she encounters thing pretty regularly. Obviously she has to choose how to behave at school, I’m not in her class everyday. She has to choose what kids to be friends with, what words to use, what games or songs aren’t appropriate, etc etc. This still cause a great deal of fear in me at times. I try to stress to her at every learning moment that we Alvarado’s choose not to say that, or we choose not to dress like that, or we choose not act that way, or listen to that song because WE honor God. And that other people aren’t bad because they choose differently than us (This is an important thing to stress to her, she can be very black and white), but We Alvardo’s chose to honor God. She being a child still flubs it, and does things the wrong way, but sometimes that kid amazes me. She came home from a girl scout event and said “Mom, you know that song ‘you spin my head round’?” (I let out a small gasp…I hate that dirty song) “Yeah, I know it.” “Well, the girls were singing it and I was like ‘That’s a yucky song, you guys shouldn’t sing it’ But they didn’t listen to me and I had to go all the way over to the other side not to hear them!” Victory. Not for me, for her. She CHOSE to go against the flow. I never would have known she was singing that song with her friends. She wasn’t really doing it out of fear of my discipline, she was doing it because she knew it was wrong and she chose right.

  4. Your Brother

    Great post- My kids will be spending time with you, and Vin Scully (knock on wood)

  5. Lottie

    yes our little ones certainly hold a mirror up to us, and sometimes it’s not so nice to look in is it! I have just started having 2 children with me for summer daycare who are older then my 18month old. As I hear them play together I am amazed to hear my own tone and words coming out of their mouths (especially funny as I have an English accent which means there’s NO mistaking it when they’re copying me!) thankfully so far it’s only been nice to hear (“let’s say PLEASE and use our manners” nice to know some of my daily repetition is going in!!) but it’s so cautionary isn’t it – as you say, they are like little sponges soaking up their environment. Great post, thanks for the reminder to choose wisely what they soak up.

  6. Oh, you know that’s true!

  7. Michelle Eastman

    Well, I suppose since you are posting about my sin life, I should leave a response here! ;o)

    I appreciate you sharing this because it is the reality of parenting. We are not perfect and neither are our children. It is hypocritical for me to discpiline my children for fighting, bad attiutudes, rudeness and then not seek their forgiveness when I exhibit the same sin in my own life.

    It is quite humbling to ask the forgiveness of a 5 year-old, but you know what? It changes them.

    It changes me.

    The Lord uses our children to grow us, mature us and teach us … I need to listen. I need to obey.

    Thanks, Rach – I appreciate you, and I am sorry I did not give you a “So good to see you hug!”. We DID hug before leaving one another, right????


  8. interesting post. i always feel very strongly about how SweetPea behaves outside of home. we strive to impart good values and morals in the “cruel world” but its rare that we look at ourselves as a compass for their behaviour. I’m often astounded by what children are allowed to get away with these days. things i wouldn’t have DREAMED of saying or doing. but times have changed. parents want to be “friends” with their kids. Not me. I want to be a parent.
    I love that Michelle apoligized to her son. My daughter is incredibly sensitive so if I even speak sternly to her or raise my voice she crumbles. There are times when she pushes me and I am forced to be ANGRY mom – I want her to understand WHY I’m upset but at the end of the evening I always make it a point to apologize for my words and the tone of my voice since I am an adult and know better. it ‘s like Michelle said, God uses our children to teach us to be better….it’s just up to us to pay attention!

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