You have probably heard the saying: “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.”

Well, I have come to learn a few things about my children and this proverb seems to sum it up perfectly. It’s frustrating and stressful when you give advice to your children and they simply don’t listen. Sometimes, you feel like you want to grab them and shake some sense into them… Well I do, anyway.

I feel that I am qualified enough in this game called life to dish out advice to my children. Advice to help them make better choices; to help them think more positively about how blessed their lives actually are; advice on how to make it through this crazy messed up world with minimal war scars and baggage. I feel entitled because after all, I am 30 years their senior and I have been through enough in my life to be able to help them. But do you think they listen? No. It goes in one ear and out the other.

I suppose many of us were like this as children. We always believed we knew better than our silly old parents. I know I was!

But now this job of raising children has made me question whether I am actually qualified. Am I really entitled to dish out advice when I still do not take my own advice? It’s taken me 30 years to pull my life together, and I am still growing in many areas. I wonder what kind of an example my children are seeing in me, a man broken from his past, struggling through many of the effects that that broken past has had on me as an individual.

To be honest, I can still throw tantrums with the best of them. I still lose my cool and get angry and say stupid things I don’t mean. I still shout and scream and I still act a fool when I don’t get my own way. Yet these bad behaviours are what I am now trying to guide in my own children. How can I expect to teach lessons I may never have really learned myself?

I feel like I have learned a ton of great lessons in life; I have street smarts and have lived a hard knock life – but does my advice count for anything if my example does not reflect the words coming out of my mouth?

In Luke 6:39-40, Jesus said: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.”

Have I myself not been fully trained? Am I leading my children in the right way? Here are a few things to consider as you think about leading your children as a parent:

  1. Fix yourself first: I realise that I need to be more focused on working on my own actions and behaviours, because if I am still broken I cannot effectively lead my family. I must continue to seek advice and learn from my mistakes in order for my example to become greater.
  2. You cannot make anyone do anything: The more I struggle to get my advice through to my kids, the more I realise that I cannot force them to take my advice. Sometimes the best lessons are learned through one’s own mistakes.
  3. If you want to see change, be change: I am realising more and more that my words mean nothing to my children. Children do what they see. Your actions and behaviours are picked up more by your children than anything you ever say to them.
  4. You will mess up: Don’t expect to always get it right. That will cause unnecessary guilt each time you do mess up (which you will). When you do mess up just remember this – an apology goes further than anything else at this time. A father or mother apologising to their child for being wrong is one of the greatest lessons a child can ever witness.
  5. Never give up: When you seem to be at the end of your tether, remember the wise words of Dory from Finding Nemo – Just keep swimming! Do not give up trying. Keep returning to point one on this list.

I would like you to know that although I have grown a lot and I have seen more improvement in myself than I ever believed possible, I did not do it alone. In trying my best to be the best version of me that I can be and to teach my children to be the best version of themselves that they can be, I found that at the end of the day I am just human, and my children are just human, and we humans are not perfect. We fail, we choke, we live and learn and try again – but none of these changes would’ve ever been possible without the help of God. His wisdom has been an ever-present help to me when I have felt overwhelmed.

I rely on Him to help me grow and become better, because I know that I am just a flawed man who has no way of ever really getting it all right – but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Do you need help? Why don’t you give things over to God?

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