One spring morning at church, a friend gave our four-year-old daughter a piece of candy. She cupped it in her palm, wrapped her fingers around it and cherished her newly acquired treasure.
About half an hour later, as we were about to leave, I noticed in the church parking lot that she no longer had her prized possession.
“Where did your sweet go?” I asked her.
“Oh, I planted it in the dirt over there so it will grow into a tree full of sweets.”
I smiled at her logic. At the age of four, she already understood the concept of reaping what you sow.
If there is one thing I have learned as a parent, it’s this: What you put in is what you get out.
If my kids have watched an episode of Dora the Explorer in the morning, I can guarantee that I will be hearing quote after quote of Dora, Boots the monkey and Swiper the fox all afternoon.
If they spend a weekend at their granny’s house, they come home repeating phrases and nuances that sound oh-so-familiar.
On one occasion, I had been playing a CD of Christian praise songs in the house while I was cleaning. Later that same day, I took my daughter swimming at the gym. In the changing room, unfamiliar faces were minding their own business as they meandered to and from the showers.
There, in the middle of the busy silence, my little girl burst out one of the praise choruses she had heard earlier in the day. At first I was mildly embarrassed and nearly shushed her – but then I thought to myself, “This may be one of the only times some of these women hear the truth about God.”
Let’s face it. What our kids hear is what they will repeat. They soak it all up like a dry sponge longing for moisture – and when life squeezes, the fluid that comes out will be the very same liquid that seeped in.
In 2 Corinthians 9:6 Paul writes, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
Though the context regards financial giving, the principle can be applied to parenting as well. If you invest little into your children, you will get little fruit out of them. By contrast, those who pour biblical love, grace and wisdom into their charges are likely to be blessed with loving, gracious and wise children in the future.
As my daughter reasoned, if you put something good into the soil, something good will come out of it. Sadly, the converse is also true. When we allow our children’s minds to be flooded with the things of this world, they will no doubt be negatively influenced and affected.
While we may have little control over what our children overhear on the playground at school, as parents, we can certainly control what they are exposed to in terms of television, movies and even books.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a children’s cartoon on TV these days that is not littered with cheeky attitudes, disrespectful characters, lazy behavior, disobedience and defiance toward parents. We can’t pretend that our kids don’t pick up on these things.
I once went with a friend to the movie theatre to watch an animated movie to preview whether it was appropriate for our kids. I was shocked when I came home and my kids were quoting phrase after phrase of the same film – all because they had seen the trailer once! And that was just the trailer!
My point is, kids remember.
We haven’t had television at our house since we’ve been married, but as a safety measure, my husband and I have agreed that we won’t allow our children to watch DVD’s unless one of us has either seen it first, or is watching it with them.
The same rule has recently become necessary in the world of books. I was thrilled when my kids learned how to read. It opens up a whole world of discovery and possibility for them. Their understanding of things has blossomed exponentially, and their vocabulary is ever expanding as they devour chapter book after chapter book.
But my husband and I quickly learned that we need to be discerning with literature as well. Sadly, many children’s books on library shelves today elevate main characters with bad habits, or rudeness toward siblings. Through consistency and repetition, my kids have come to pick up on it themselves, and will sometimes say to me, “Mom, I don’t think we should read that series any more. The boy in that book is really rude.”
While there are books that are unhelpful toward our children’s character development, there is a plethora of gems as well. Why not dig for the gems amidst the rubble, and sow sweet seeds into the future generation?
Reaping eternal life
As Galatians 6:7-9 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
Like my preschool daughter’s decision to plant her sweet in hopes of a future bounty, we should take what we prize and value most – the gospel of Jesus Christ – and plant it in the fertile soil of our children’s hearts.
What practical tips can we share with each other, as Christian parents, to intentionally sow good into our children’s lives?
Kate Motaung is the wife of a South African pastor and homeschooling mom of three. She has contributed to Ungrind, Radiant Magazine, (in)Courage, StartMarriageRight.com, Thriving Family, MOPS and Young Disciple magazine. You can read more from Kate at her blog, Heading Home or on Twitter @k8motaung.