Devotion: Parroting & Parenting

Have you ever seen “We Bought a Zoo?” Looking back I realized that this has been the story of my life. Since my childhood, my family has had 17 dogs, 5 cats…including a cat named Turtle, and a few box turtles that I tried to name Cat. There were a myriad of goldfish that would be won at the annual school fair. A parakeet that got eaten by Turtle (remember that’s a cat). Throw in some hamsters, maybe a guinea pig and a short stint of a mouse for a Young Life skit. Then there was Max, an amazon parrot.

Now we could never train Max to speak. He failed at the one interesting thing a parrot could do…parrot you. Even though my uncle spent an entire weekend in front of his cage saying “To Hell with Georgia” (he was a Tech grad), Max would never repeat anything we tried to teach him.

I, on the other hand, can parrot the value my father instilled in each of his children on the first day of school: “First impressions are lasting impressions.” And my own children will be blogging or seeking a counselor in my repetitive core value that we should do the “Hard -> Easy, not the Easy -> Hard.”

In studying the book of Titus, I learned that as Paul lays out the credentials for leaders within the church he states that one essential element is that “their children are believers.” Many pastors have witnessed the heartache of their children wandering away from the faith, and leaders wonder if their child’s faithlessness discredits their ability to be effective leaders in the church. That is when I came across a simple but profound point about that verse: The greek word for child means “young child.”

Paul is not speaking about a grown child or even an adolescent who needs to take responsibility for their own faith development. He is speaking about a young child.

A young child is an effective barometer of what is being taught and caught in the home.

Years ago, we had an incident in our neighborhood where an 8 year-old boy had called one of my sons a “Fuck-face.” When I learned this my heart broke, because I knew the only way that language had become part of this child’s repertoire is because most likely his parents were either yelling it at each other or belittling this child.

What are they catching from you? Do your young children reflect your faith? Or are they parroting the secret life lived in your home?

This is why traditional youth ministry (and by “traditional,” I mean the development of Sunday night youth groups that started up 75 years ago…so really they are not that traditional…and after three generations of experimenting their ineffectiveness is being called into question) is not enough. The home is where the ideas of love, forgiveness, sacrifice, sabbath, prayer, confession, and giving get to be lived out.

So what are your young children parroting from you? Are they learning to sing songs of praise on the drive to school or listening to drive-time shock jocks? Are they hearing you pray aloud – not just saying grace? Are they learning forgiveness, mercy, patience and joy?

Recently a counselor taught me that 82% of what your child will pickup from you is taught and caught in their first 7 years.

Stephen MacKey has the four roles a parent is supposed to play in the life of their child: Caregiver, Cop, Coach, Counselor.

  • Caregiver: Attend to the physical and emotional needs of a young child
  • Cop: Guard and guide the development of a preteen
  • Coach: Allowing the teenager to “play the game” but being a voice of encouragement (and correction)
  • Counselor: Listening and advising the young adult as they begin to build their life structure

The problem he says is that too many parents remain cops for too long that they fail to become coaches, which means they will lose the right to ever be a counselor. As I taught my children these roles over dinner, one of my boys beamed and said, “Yeah dad, you’re my coach!” to which I looked at him and said, “Nope. Not yet I am not, I am still a cop to you…now eat your green beans!”

One thought on “Devotion: Parroting & Parenting

  1. I really like this. You should get this to the BaseCamp families. 


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