A Family Circle Series: Parenthood and Patterns

By Leslie Diestelkamp

Perhaps no one will argue with me when I say that there is no power you can have over your children that is equal to the influence of your example. Yet it may be that it is in this respect that the greatest failures occur. We may expect our children to be directed by what we say, yet, we may fail miserably to establish a strong influence over them because we do not “practice what we preach.” Actually, what we do speaks so loudly that they may not be able to hear what we say!

It has been said that “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time.” Parents need to remember that one can hardly deceive his children at all. They may be better able to detect hypocrisy than can the neighbors and, in fact, though they may not understand the details of wrongdoing, they will usually know if something is wrong — if one is not what he claims to be.

But aside from the fact that children are often “turned off” by the hypocrisy they observe, we need to remember that they may indeed be greatly influenced for good by the example the parents set. Please note the significant words written by Herbert Fraser:

“To get his good night kiss, he stood

Beside my chair one night,

And raised his eager face to me,

A face with love alight.

And as I gathered in my arms

The son God gave to me,

I thanked the lad for being good,

And hoped he’d always be.

His little arms crept ’round my neck,

And then I heard him say

Four simple words I shan’t forget,

Four words that made me pray.

They turned a mirror on my soul,

On secrets no one knew,

They startled me, I hear them yet-

He said, “I’ll be like you.”‘

How well do I remember a cold day in 1945 or 1946 when I lived in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. My second son, Al, who was then just under school age, had gone with me to the Post Office. We crossed the wet street and stepped up on the dry sidewalk. Soon Al dropped behind me and then he said, “Daddy, do you know what I am doing?” I said, “No, what are you doing?” He replied, “I am walking in your steps.” You see, the soles of my shoes were wet and they left a dark imprint on the dry sidewalk. He was stretching his little legs as much as possible to try to step in each track I left. The incident left a deep impression on me. I thought, as I go down this street today, and down the pathway of life in the days and years to come, here is a little boy following me. He will go where I go, do what I do and be what I am! Ever since then I have been pleading with parents to recognize the power of their example. Somebody is following you. It is probably your son or daughter!

Children must see Christ-likeness in us in moral purity, in devotion to God, in faithfulness in worship, in love for the church, in unselfishness, generosity, kindness and in love for truth.

Parents, please ask yourselves, “How important will religious matters be to my children if they acquire the very same devotion that I have demonstrated before them?” Do they see that you put God first all the time (Mt. 6:33)? Does your example show them that your greatest concern is to reach heaven yourself and to help them and others reach that place too (Col. 3:1, 2)?

I am sure fathers and mothers will find the right way to set a proper example before their children if those parents can just be very deeply impressed with the importance of such example. The following poem by some unknown author is used here to try to make such parents see more clearly:

“Walk a little plainer, daddy,”

Said a little boy so frail,

“I’m following in your footsteps,

And I don’t want to fail.

Sometimes your steps are very plain,

Sometimes they are hard to see,

So walk a little plainer, daddy,

For you are leading me:”

“I know that once you walked this way,

Many, many years ago,

And what you did along the way,

I’d really like to know.

For sometimes when I’m tempted,

I don’t know what to do.

So walk a little plainer, daddy,

For I must follow you.

“Some day when I will have grown up,

You are like I want to be,

Then I will have a little boy,

Who will want to follow me.

And I would want to lead him right,

And help him to be true,

So walk a little plainer, Daddy,

For we must follow you.

Let every hour of every day be lived in such a manner that every word and every deed will lead some child in the right way. Parents, awake! Into your hands has been given those who are not only precious to you, but who are also very precious to God. Their eternal destinies are being determined right now-not by the school teachers, not by the police, not by the neighborhood in which they live, but by you! The kind of character you demonstrated before them will probably be the very kind they exhibit before the all-seeing eye of God. With all the wisdom you can acquire, teach them well. But most of all, lead them by your example: say the kind of pure words you want them to say; do the kind of deeds you want them to do; manifest the kind of attitude you want them to have. Yes, live the kind of joyful, enthusiastic, happy life of righteousness and holiness you want to see in them. God bless all of you. Next: “Crisis Psychology.”

Truth Magazine XXII: 15, pp. 246-247
April 13, 1978