The jury is still out as to whether or not Ray Rice or Beyonce or Chris Brown are to be seen as role models to our kids. But there is no question that anyone who is a parent is--for good or bad--a role model.
Our kids are watching us. They're listening to us. And they're learning from us what it means to be a man or woman. What it means to be a Christian. What it means to be a good parent.
Since the publication of my book, When Father is a Bad Word, I have heard from people all around the world whose mothers and fathers have taught them some rather troubling things. The example set by their parents has taught more adults that we would like to believe that:
- Parents lie.
- Parents cheat.
- Parents put work and pleasure before family.
- Parents expect perfection.
- Parents can't be trusted.
- Parents are hateful.
- Parents leave when things get rough.
Author Steve Farrar, the Founder and Chairman of Men's Leadership Ministries, shares a story that speaks of the importance of parents setting a good example to their kids. His family moved to a new town when he was sophomore in high school.
Steve knew that one of the best ways to make new friends was to go out for a sport. He really wanted to go out for basketball but realized he couldn’t. He had done something very foolish. Because he had goofed around in class he had gotten a D on his report card. His dad’s rule for the three boys in their family was clear: You bring home anything lower than a C, you don’t play sports.
But one day in PE class, the varsity basketball coach saw Steve shooting hoops. He was impressed enough to approach Steve and invite to try out for the varsity team. Steve sheepishly told him he couldn’t because of his report card. The coach was quick to point out that according to school rules he was still eligible to play if he had just one D.
Steve said, “Yes, sir, I realize that, but you have to understand that my dad has his own eligibility rules.”
The coach flippantly said, “What’s your phone number? I’m going to call your dad.”
Steve said, “I’ll give you the phone number, but it will be a waste of your time.”
The coach soon found that to be true. Steve’s dad pointedly told the coach that it was his job as a father to teach his sons how to be responsible and that if Steve really wanted to play basketball next season he knew what he needed to do.
The coach kept pushing. But Steve's father stood firm.
The next morning, the coach came up to Steve in the locker room and said, “I talked to your dad yesterday afternoon and he wouldn’t budge. I explained the school eligibility rules, but he wouldn’t change his mind. I don’t have very much respect for your father.”
Steve was stunned. This coach doesn’t respect my father?
Steve reflects that at the time he thought,"Even I have enough sense to know that my dad is doing the right thing. Sure, I want to play ball, but I know that my dad is a man of his word and he is right in not letting me play. I can’t believe this coach would say such a thing.”
“Coach,” Steve said. “I can tell you that I highly respect my dad. And I also want you to know that I will never play basketball for you.”
And he never did. Even though he got his grades up he never went out for the varsity team. Why? Because he refused to play for man who didn’t respect his father for doing right thing.
Steve later said, “My dad was man of conviction and character. And any coach who couldn’t see that was not the kind of man I wanted to be associated with. My dad was strict and unwilling to change his conviction even though he had gone to college on a basketball scholarship and it hurt him for me not to play ball. My dad was capable of change, but he was unwilling to change because he had a long-term objective for my life that the coach didn’t have. The coach wanted to win games. My dad wanted to build a son.”
Parents, do you want to set a positive example to your children? Do you want to build them up in a world that is all too ready to tear them down? Do you want them to stand up for what is right when others are pressuring them to do wrong? Do you want to teach them the importance of being a person of integrity? Then accept the fact that the greatest role model they will ever have is you.
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8, NIV)