I’m turning into you

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2018

By Nathan Rice

His recent growth spurt put him eye to eye with me. This made it easy for him to make eye contact with me as he walked in my direction, appearing to be on a mission.

“I’m turning into you,” he said. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer that it was a good characteristic that rubbed off on him, and asked, “What do you mean?”

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He pointed to a spot on his leg where a newly formed patch of hair had sprouted and said, “I’m getting hairy.” He hadn’t proudly picked up something I had tried to demonstrate for him over the years, but at least he hadn’t copied one of my bad habits. “It’s that time for you,” I said as he lamented, “I don’t want to be as hairy as you!”

The truth is that children are indeed turning into us. We are teaching them by the way we live our lives, and they are learning how to act by watching how we behave. Children learn more by watching those around them than by any other way. Unfortunately, many of us never stop to ask ourselves two simple yet scary questions. What is our behavior teaching them? And will we be pleased with the adults they become if they become exactly like us?

It can be an intimidating thing to consider, because none of us is perfect, but we shouldn’t use our imperfection as an excuse to ignore the fact that little eyes are watching how we conduct ourselves. Instead, we should be extra careful in how we live knowing that every moment is training those who are watching — and they are watching.

The phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do,” may be used by some, but it doesn’t have a place in the teaching and training of children. Whether we like it or not, they will always pick up more by how we act than by what we say.

We can tell them over and over to be nice to their classmates, but it won’t mean much if they see us fussing out the driver that cut us off in traffic and yelling at the cashier who got our order wrong. Our words may teach them for a moment that children must be nice, but our actions will show them that adults are free to be mean to each other.

I am not perfect, but I am fully aware that little ears are hearing, little eyes are watching, and little feet are following. This has caused me to pay extra close attention to every detail of how I live. I strive to be able to echo the words of the Apostle Paul who urged others to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ.

We may hesitate to say “Follow my example,” but there is no question that children will follow our example. The only question is the type of example we are setting for them.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.