A popular radio program hosted by Art Linkletter had a regular segment called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Linkletter began interviewing children to get their unvarnished comments, some of which were hilarious. Most parents will agree, children can say things that surprise us.
The other day, my son told me that while he and his youngest were in the car, they were rear-ended. They felt the impact strongly, although it was a minor incident. As he and the other driver exchanged information, the woman kept repeating how sorry she was. She looked in the car and noticed my four-year-old granddaughter, who promptly asked, “Are you going to be more careful next time?” Somewhat stunned, the woman looked at my son who tried his best not to laugh. Undaunted, my granddaughter repeated, “Well, are you?” I know with certainty that those are familiar words to her, having heard them a time or two from her parents after being careless.
Parents model behavior and speech for their children and often fail to realize the impact they have and the impressions they make. I once overheard my younger daughter playing with her doll. She was having a conversation with it and repeatedly asked in an irritated and accusative tone, “Is that clear? Is that clear?” I joked with my husband that I had no idea where she heard that expression—after all kids do say the darndest things.
Not too long afterwards I was in the middle of a heated confrontation with my older daughter. I was correcting her for something she had done, when in my frustration over her lack of response, I chimed, “Is that clear? Is that clear?” My voice had the same intonation and emphasis that I had heard directed to the doll. It was a humbling moment. I learned, as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
There were times when my children would repeat in public gossip they had heard from my lips or something negative I had said in private. Those moments were always awkward and embarrassing. They drove home that fact that the eyes and ears of my children were influenced much more by how I behaved as they were by the verbal instructions I gave them. Such instances led to discussions of how God’s law applies to all—parents as well as children.
1 Corinthians 11:1 tells us “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” This is a high calling and one that requires self-discipline. We will not be able to transmit this commandment to our children unless we personally embrace it. Listen to yourself as you address your children, knowing that most certainly you will hear your words repeated back to you. With Christ as your model, you are more likely to be pleased with the results.