Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Walk the Talk

I live with a parrot.  He's about 37 inches tall, nearly 2 1/2 years old, super cute, and he repeats back everything I say.  The old adage "practice what you preach" has new meaning for me with my 2 year old. 

Today's Gospel reading from Matthew (23:1-12) is usually applied to priests and other people in positions of leadership.  When I worked in Youth Ministry I heard kids say over and over again that they didn't respect adults who were hypocrites.  Interestingly, even the "naughty" kids wanted the adults in their lives to walk the talk.  Teens, especially, would get so angry when parents, teachers, coaches, and other important adults would do the exact thing they told others not to do.  I decided that if I preached it, I had to live it.  

Now, I've got a little guy watching and listening and repeating everything I do.  I have to mind my language, manners, behavior.  I can't let a curse fly out of my mouth, tell my 2 year old to not say naughty words, and then swear again.  2 year olds don't understand that you're being a hypocrite; they're simply mimicking the world around them.  Older kids, however, understand when words and actions contradict each other.

Today I read this passage as a parent and this is what I picked up:
1.) "Call no one Master" (some translations Teacher).  Obviously, kids have lots of teachers, but my child has one Master - the Holy Spirit.  My job as a parent is to teach my son to know the promptings of the Spirit and to follow those promptings.

2.) "The greatest among you must be your servant."  A friend jokingly tells me that the toddler years are when you have to break your child of thinking that you are his servant to teach him now he is your servant.  Anyone with a toddler can tell you there is truth to this.  I want my son to be self-sufficient and know that I'm not going to do everything for him.  Yet, I want him to have the heart of a servant and the only way he is going to develop that is if he sees me being a servant to others.  

3.) "They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry..."  I interpreted this in two ways: being a hypocrite and sharing too much with a kid.  When I act like a hypocrite in front of a kid it becomes a burden for him to carry.  He will start to wonder, "Well, Deirdre isn't following that rule.  Maybe there are things that I don't need to obey."  

Secondly, Whenever I prepared a witness talk for retreats, I made sure that I was not burdening the kids with my story.  Witness talks are to act like a mirror and window: they see into me, but they should see themselves.  Anytime an adult shares too much with a kid it becomes a burden.  I don't have to worry about this with my little guy just yet, but I saw this a lot in Youth Ministry.  Some kids get caught up in the tug-of-war between parents; the parents would say nasty things about each other and the kid is left trying to sort through the emotions and information alone.  Some kids knew way too much about the family financial situation and they felt responsibility for something they had no control over.  

As the adult it is my job to practice what I preach and carry the burdens for my children.

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