Most of the lessons our kids learn come through casual observation.
I am a Green Bay Packers fan. I’m not just a casual fan, either. I’m a bit of a maniacal Green Bay Packers fan. I love the Packers. I grew up with Packers paraphernalia, and it still is found in my home and around my office. I grew up as a Packers fan because my dad is a Packers fan. He’s from Wisconsin and, although he left there at 17 years old, his love for the Packers went with him. By the time I was a teenager, I was well versed in all things Green Bay Packers. I knew their history, I knew their best players, I could talk about their management and their uniform tradition. I was infatuated. And I still am. I love passing along my love for the Packers to my wife and my kids.
What’s interesting about my love for the Packers is that it comes, exclusively, from my dad. And even more interesting to me is that he never once, that I can remember, sat down to teach me about the Packers. No classes on their history, their coaching style, their tradition or their prospects for the future. No, my dad didn’t have to do that to indoctrinate me as a Cheesehead. He didn’t have to because, in our house, Sunday afternoon football was a way of life. We talked about it in general conversation, we bought each other things that were decorated by the team’s logos, and every Sunday afternoon after church we watched them play on TV.
See the thing is, my dad didn’t have to formally indoctrinate me. It was such a constant in our house there was no getting away from it. I am who I am because my dad is who he is.
Pursuing Casual Orthodoxy
Of course, by now you see where I’m going with this. Fathers have a big influence on our lives. There is no man in the world with a greater influence on my life than my dad. I’m like him in nearly every way. Much more than the Packers, my dad trained me in every way regarding what it looked like to be a man, a dad, a husband and most especially, a follower of Jesus. Sure there were the occasional times when he sat down and lectured me about something, but I don’t know that I really remember many of those times. What I do remember is who my dad was (and is).
In Deuteronomy 6 we find the Shema, one of the most important passages in the Old Testament to parents about how they are to raise their children:
“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” —Deuteronomy 6:4–9
This passage points us to what it looks like to raise children well. What’s striking to me about it is how well it understands how human nature naturally learns. The best lessons we can learn in life happen along the way. They happen through our repetition. They happen through our conversations while we are walking along. They happen as we lay down on the couch to snuggle up next to our kids and we talk about their day. I think we often believe that successful parenting is well-planned lessons with our kids, or knowing exactly what to say at exactly the right time. The truth, though, is that most of what we teach our kids happens casually, without much planning.
It Isn’t Always Simple
Now, unfortunately, there are times when our teaching, no matter how thorough, doesn’t seem to stick. My brother, raised in the same house as I was, ended up a Dallas Cowboys fan. We jokingly say we’ll pray for him. But the majority of the time, who we are when we are relaxed and spending time with our family is passed down to our children.
Today I am a parent. I have two daughters and one son. I am about eight months away from having three teenagers in my house and my kids are becoming like me and their mom. They are like us in good ways and in bad ways. We have our moments when we sit down and try to intentionally teach them, but most of who they have been and are being shaped into has happened through our casual experiences together.
I write all of this mostly as a reminder to myself, and those of you listening in as I talk to myself: Who I am matters, all the time. My kids are watching. I’m hoping that, like my own dad, I pass along to them my love for the Packers, and the Royals and the Gators (I know, I know—it’s an eclectic group of teams). But more so I hope my kids watch my life and see that I love Jesus, I love their mom and I love the church. They’re with me all the time, and no matter what I try to teach them, they’re going to observe and become like the person I am. So to all of us, be faithful, be consistent and be ready.
This article originally appeared on LifeWayVoices.com.