Monday, June 27, 2011

Lead by Example--Guest Post from The Hippie Housewife

Cynthia is the mother of two little boys, an inquisitive preschooler and an energetic toddler. She blogs at The Hippie Housewife, where she shares her thoughts on attachment parenting, natural living, life as a Jesus-follower, and more, all tied together through her journey towards a more intentional life.

follow the leader, leader, leader
Image credit storem on Flickr

Lead by example.

It's well-worn advice, but well-worn for a reason: It's good advice. We should never underestimate the power of our example. Our children, our husbands, and others can all be affected - positively or negatively - by what we model in our lives.

There is perhaps no area this applies to more than that of parenting, particularly for those of us who choose to use gentle discipline as we raise our children. How might this play out in our lives?

We can lead our children by our example. Our children look to us for cues and guidance. What do they see? Would we want them to model their lives after our own? Consider these three major areas:

  • Personal life: Knowing that our children are watching should give us pause to examine our priorities and habits. Do they see a life of self-discipline or one of chaos? Do they see and hear us meditating on Scripture as we go about our day? What holds our attention and takes up our time? Even the way we make decisions and resolve conflict can be examples for our children. Narrating our decision-making process out loud allows them to hear how we work through a decision or conflict from start to finish.
  • How we relate to others: Our children observe the way we relate to others as well. Do we intentionally seek to build community? Do we maintain firm, healthy boundaries in our lives? Do we extend grace and compassion, or do our children hear us criticizing others at every opportunity?
  • How we treat our children: Children learn what they live. The way we treat our children becomes the basis upon which they view themselves and interact with others. Our actions and attitudes towards our children should model God's love for them. Do we demand perfection from them while excusing our own weaknesses? Do we offer forgiveness when they do wrong, and ask their forgiveness when we wrong them? Do we treat them compassionately and offer them grace when they need it? What do our words, actions, and attitudes tell our children about their Heavenly Father?

We can lead our husbands by our example. When I am parenting with intention, my husbands adopts those same gentle perspectives and tools. Unfortunately, this works both ways. Without fail, the minute I start being harsh with our children, my husband follows suit. My words come out of his mouth. My attitudes become glaringly apparent in the way he acts towards the boys. Good or bad, he picks up on the way I treat our children. Like it or not, a mother truly does set the tone for her household.

Many a father will balk at the idea of gentle discipline. And yet our husbands will hear us when we use positive scripts with our children and they will see the gentle discipline tools we use. They will also see how the children respond and the fruit it brings forth both in them and in our relationships with them. More often than not, the reluctant father will begin to follow suit in time. A quiet "leading by example" approach is often far more effective than a direct theoretical discussion.

We can lead others by our example. The best way to advocate for gentle discipline is to live it. A consistent, calm response to our children's behaviour will be noticed by those around us. Rather than "parenting to the crowd", focus on your child and parent them. Let your fruit speak for itself.

At the same time, we must remain humble enough to look to the example of other experienced mothers. Another gentle-minded mother can be an invaluable role model, sounding board, and encouragement. Seek the support and wisdom of others who hold the same values you do.

Begin by following Jesus' example for us. All of this should be rooted in a firm and sincere desire to ultimately follow Jesus' example. Jesus welcomed children and lauded their unquestioning faith. He spoke life-giving words of encouragement to the hurting. He gave thanks to the Father in all things. He reminded us that whatever we do for the "least of these", we do for the Lord - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick. He commanded us to love God and to love others as ourselves, and His ministry on earth serves as a model for just that.

Live your faith, model your values, and lead by example.

In what ways do you find your example leads those around you?

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