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Teach Your Children Well: The surprising things kids learn from our examples

"No Mommy, I want the green one!" 3-year-old Eva insisted. I looked at the row of plastic cups on the shelf. Blue, yellow, red, even pink, but not a green one in sight.

"Eva, honey, we don't have a green cup. How about a red or blue or yellow one?" I asked.

"Mommy, please can I have the green one?" Eva asked, pointing clearly at the red cup.

I was confused. Eva was just learning her colors but I thought she was a bit further along. Handing her the red cup I enunciated, "Eva, this is red, not green."

She smiled, happy with her choice and oblivious to my correction.

Later in the afternoon we were reading books. I picked up The Little Engine that Could and Eva pushed it aside and announced, "No Mommy, let's read the green one," pointing instead to Goodnight Moon.

Eventually, I realized that when Eva said "the green one," she meant the other one. Somehow she'd heard me say, "Would you like the green one?" when the other was green and consequently she mixed up these words in her vocabulary.

How closely our children observe us. And how readily they mimic our example, and always in context! Yikes. If Eva got her colors mixed up from mistakenly basing her vocabulary on my example, in what other spots might I inadvertently mislead her?

"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deut. 6:6-7). This very familiar scripture tells us to impart God's teaching to our children during every moment of our day. But I don't think the intent here is just to talk. Rather, we're to talk, and check, and model, and correct and continue weaving that truth into each day. One telling is never enough. Complete comprehension comes only through living a truth. And we have to live it consistently. Even in our failings, we can model humility, repentance and reconciliation.

What are our children learning from our examples? While they are born with a desire to know and love God, to use their talents in their world and in meaningful relationships, it's our job as moms to teach them how to do those things. We do that in the big lessons we teach them, yes, but more so in the lessons of the little things?the way we treat others, the way we love our husbands, the way we deal with the daily frustrations of parenting. Each lesson involves more than just saying something once. Life's lessons involve checking up through the days and years to make sure what we think we said is actually what they heard.

Elisa Morgan is president of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International. Her most recent book is Meditations for Mothers (Zondervan). Elisa lives in Colorado with her husband, Evan, and their two children. For information about a MOPS group in your area, call (800) 929-1287.

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