A Product of Their Upbringing – A Look at Children’s Values Reflective of Parents’ Attitudes

Portrait of happy father and his daughter. Fun, love, happiness at home

Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources

“The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

This proverb is quoted twice in Scripture (Jeremiah 9:14 and Ezekiel 16:44). It is modernized in such phrases as, “He is a chip off the old block,” “Like father, like son,” or “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” The point is the same: children imitate their parents.

I have counseled countless parents and children, and without a doubt the connection is real. As any pastor or counselor can tell you – spend a few hours counseling with a child, and you get a good picture of what the parents are like.

While there are always exceptions, children mostly reflect the values, attitudes, and opinions of their parents. More than that, children imitate the way their parents walk, talk, and laugh.

The point is that from the very beginning parents are on display. Tiny eyes record every smile and grimace. The laughter and tears are registered. Cold heartedness is remembered, and kindness leaves an impression.

Without a doubt, parents are not the only ones to leave an impression. Teachers, close family friends, and relatives play a powerful role as well. Parents, however, make day-to-day contact with their children. Little ones, in turn, continuously watch and learn from their parents.

This tight relationship was accentuated early to God’s people. When God sent Moses down with His law He gave this added instruction to the children of Israel: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:18,19). At first glance, this directive appears to mean education. Look closer.

What God was requesting was a lifestyle of instruction. He wanted the people not just to talk about His law but also to live it every moment of their lives. Whether sitting around the home, walking along the path into town, or getting ready for bed, the things of God were to be talked about and lived.

After years of working with many young people from a variety of backgrounds, it is clear not everyone has had great modeling in a spiritual lifestyle. Some parents never gave a moment’s thought about the effect their actions and lifestyle had on their children. Some parents were absent more than they were present to model the godly lifestyle. Other parents wanted to do what was right, but they did not know how to do it.

Now before going any further we must readily admit that children sometimes act contrary to their upbringing. Parents may do and say the right thing yet end up with a child who walks the wrong path. Yes, there are always exceptions. Do not despair. Often these children, who have heard God’s Word and who have seen it rightly modeled in their parents’ lives, come around.

In the end, our words and modeling are intended to get our children started in the right direction. Remember, although children are not punished for the sins of their parents, they do not inherit the righteousness of their parents either. Some choose to ignore what they have heard and seen. Some consciously fight their upbringing. In the end, each person alone is accountable before God (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The responsibility of parenting is not to make believers and good people out of their children but to teach their children by word and example the right things of God. In faith, every Christian is challenged to make choices about how he or she lives (Joshua 24:15). In faith, a Christian parent provides every possible example in order for the child to make godly decisions.

This is especially apparent in the arena of life issues. The 21st century brings with it tremendous opportunities to sin. Radio broadcasts communicate messages that can be foul, slanderous, and ungodly. Television programming comes into our homes visually expressing some of what we hear on the radio. Movies can be rented with great plots but lousy values that entertain yet subconsciously ingrain compromising values.

Under the banner of “freedom of speech,” Christians receive worldly permission to speak slanderously against their governing officials (Romans 13). Gossip is not only common communication among friends, it makes for award-winning television entertainment.

Books and magazines venerate the “self” and ignore the Creator. Academic studies extract God from the educational experience and replace Him with a humanistic dogma in which man alone is viewed as the center of his own universe, yet God is treated as little more than “comfort food” for the unstable and weak.

Is it any wonder that Christians are becoming sexually immoral, having abortions, disposing of unborn lives beginning in a Petri dish, and terminating the lives of those deemed a burden and of little value? The challenges presented by the world are overwhelming.

The solution is not to sequester ourselves in monastic living but to be pillars of virtue, devotion, and faith to our community and especially to our children.

Consider for a moment the modeling that reflects God’s will:

Loving God:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37,38)

Worshipping God:

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ ” (Psalm 122:1)

Caring for Others:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

Showing Selfless Concern for Others:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:3-5)

Being Forgiving and Forgiven:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ ” (Matthew 18:21,22)

Having Courage During Trials:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:2-6)

Facing Death with Confidence:

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

If you are like any other parent, this list seems daunting. The charge to model Christian faith is often a harsh reminder of our own weaknesses of faith. That is why we are here.

We must encourage each other in this task (Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:25). This generation of children will be making future decisions about abortion, embryonic research, and euthanasia. They will be the ones electing leaders to establish public policy. They will be the ones to reflect God’s love and ultimately point to His message of forgiveness and salvation.


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