Modeling who we want our children to become is one of the most effective ways to influence them positively.
I grew up in a home where my parents loved God, served God, and taught us to do the same. They weren’t perfect, but I saw a genuine desire and faithfulness to live out the principles they preached. The best version of themselves was at home, with us. I would see my dad delivering sermons at the pulpit and I would think, I trust what he is saying because he lives it out at home. There’s no hypocrisy.
My dad didn’t yell or shout at us. He was strict and he disciplined us (I was probably the most disciplined, he he) but like my mom, he was an encouraging person. Generally speaking, his even-temperedness kept the climate of the home positive. Although I feared him out of respect, I knew that he wasn’t going to blow up or hurt us when people in the home made mistakes.
Even towards my mom, he was very patient. My mom once joked that she spilled stuff on him during every airplane ride. (He finally decided to sit across the aisle from her rather than right beside her to avoid getting hurt by hot tea or coffee.) I saw what my mom meant when we were having a family dinner and my mom accidentally knocked over a cup of hot tea on him as she reached across the table. He didn’t raise his voice or react in irritation. Instead, he calmly wiped his arm and continued conversing with all of us. I was like, wow. If that was me…I don’t know if I would be so composed!
As for my mom, she was predictably and contagiously joyful when I was a kid. Till this day she is one of my favorite persons to hang out with. There’s something very attractive about her joy in the Lord.
In fact, when I was struggling with my role as a wife in my early married years Edric would actually tell me, “Why don’t you spend some time with mom? I am sure being with her will make you feel better.”
He knew that I would come away from my time with her recharged and spiritually energized. And more importantly, she imparted to me godly advice.
Sometimes, when I am unusually positive, he still asks jokingly, “Did you spend time with mom today?! Why are you so cheerful?!”
The culture of a Christ-centered family has to begin with us, as parents. It’s a top-down thing. What my siblings and I saw in my parents, we copied (the good and the bad, but praise God there was much more good to copy).
My parents’ positive role-modeling coupled with their intentional discipleship bore fruit in the lives of my siblings and me. Today, my siblings and I, along with our spouse, share the same core values and beliefs as my parents. Even if we have discussions and disagreements every now and then, by God’s grace, we share unity in Him.
I once told my father, “Dad, it feels a little bit like heaven when we all get together. It’s like a foretaste of what heaven might be like someday.”
We talk about what God is doing in our lives, share the victories and the struggles, and come along side one another to encourage and lovingly correct each other so we can all grow in our faith. Furthermore, there’s so much laughter and talking we sometimes get lost in all the conversation and forget what time it is.
At the center of our family is Jesus Christ and all glory goes to Him. My parents were great parents not because they were special, but because they were committed to Christ. As the apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
Model the Right Mission – a passion for the gospel / compassion for the lost
Besides their Christ-likeness, one of the most significant things I saw in my parents’ lives was a passion to share the word of God, to share the gospel. My parents would come home from their out of town or overseas trips and tell us, “Guess what, I shared the gospel with the person beside me on the plane.”
Or, they would finish a golf game and say, “My caddy accepted the Lord today.”
As a younger woman, I remember going with my mom to malls and during her encounters with check-out counter clerks, salesladies, waiters, or whoever was serving her, she tried to share the gospel. These moments made such an impression on my heart about the importance of the gospel.
One of the more dramatic gospel stories of my mom was when she ran after a thief who stole her bag in Trinoma mall. She chased after this woman in her high heels. When a guard finally apprehended the thief, my mom caught up to her and retrieved her purse.
The guard asked if my mom wanted to file a report against the thief, but she replied, “Oh no, I just want to talk to her for a bit.”
Her more urgent priority was to tell the woman, “There must be some reason why you took my bag. There must be a greater need that you have and so I want to tell you about Jesus.”
The woman thief prayed with my mom to receive Jesus into her heart!
I needed to see my parents model a passion for the gospel so that it would become a priority for me. The same is true for my own kids. Our second son, Edan, has asked Edric and me numerous times about the realities of heaven and hell. He has struggled with questions like, “What if someone never hears the gospel. Is if fair that they go to hell?”
So whenever he sees us sharing the gospel with people, it matters to him. A few weeks ago, I shared the gospel with one of our household help. Edan overheard me and when I got to the prayer part, I saw him tearing.
Asking if he was okay, he revealed, “Mom, I thought about the verse in the Bible, about how there is rejoicing in heaven when people come to Jesus, and I just felt happy.”
When we had a shoot the other day and he heard me explaining the gospel to one of the moms I had met, he came up to me during the break and asked, “When are you going to do the closure mom? To pray with her?”
“Oh, you were listening?”
“Of course, Mom.”
Another one of my sons corrected me for not bringing gospel tracts to give to a student who was soliciting money from us when we were at a coffee shop. He reminded me, “I think you should always have a gospel track mom, so you can give it to people.”
“You are right, son.”
If we don’t show a sense of urgency or compassion for the lost, why will our kids ever grow up to do the same?
Edric and I also believe in involving our children in ministry with us. We don’t want them to feel like ministry takes us away from them. Instead, we want them to witness transformed lives and develop a conviction to be a blessing to others as they accompany us.
When I still lived at home, it was a privilege to observe my parents in action, ministering to others. This is one of the reasons why the principles of God’s word made sense to me. Since my siblings and I would be invited to listen to my parents counsel other couples or singles at the dinner table, we would make the connection – when you follow God, you are blessed, when you don’t, there are painful consequences. We perceived that the people who had joy and peace were the ones who obeyed God’s word. It was also reassuring to see how God could redeem the mistakes of people.
Model the Right Values
Because we live in a world where our children are assaulted daily by values that are contradictory to ours, it’s necessary for us to model the right ones for them. Whether it is the way we deal with conflict and difficult people, how we process trying circumstances, the way we choose to spend our time, talents and money, the habits we have, or the friends we surround ourselves with, our children are watching us closely. They are taking their cues from us.
What we put emphasis on, they will, too. Take for instance being extravagant. If we want our kids to be frugal and discerning about what they spend on, if we want them to avoid materialism, do they see these convictions lived out in us? Do we demonstrate to them what it means to be a steward of God’s resources?
One time, I asked my kids, “What do you think mom and dad are most passionate about?”
I was hoping they would immediately volunteer the answer, “You are passionate about God!”
Instead, I got a very innocent and honest response, “Mom, you are passionate about your phone.”
Oh my goodness, I thought. What have I been modeling for them?
I tried to explain, “You know that I use my phone for ministry, right? And my bible is on my phone? And I reach out to people through my phone?”
However, I just looked silly trying to defend myself. What my kids were basically telling me was that I spent a lot of time on my phone. So I had to change.
Even in small things, Edric and I have to be careful. We enjoy Netflix, but we have to be mindful of what we watch, even what we listen to because our kids copy us. We can’t say to them, “Don’t watch this show, it’s only for adults.”
As much as possible, we try to watch shows that we can all enjoy as a family. If it’s defiling for our kids to watch something, then why do we think it’s okay for us? Aren’t we called to honor the same temple?
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
This passage also applies to exercise and health. Our kids need to see us being disciplined about our eating, sleeping, and diet. We can’t emphasize healthiness in the home if it’s not backed up by our examples.
At the same time, we can’t be obsessed about wellness either. When Elijah started to act like a hypochondriac, I realized it was my example feeding him with fears.
So there has to be a balance. Taking care of our bodies is a good thing but not when it moves into the realm of idolatry.
Model the Right Perspective – A spiritual perspective
My family experienced a major crisis when I was fifteen. However, long before this event I had observed the manner in which my parents handled various crises in their own lives. When people wronged them, betrayed them, or maligned them, they didn’t take it personally or hold grudges. Instead they processed difficult people and circumstances with spiritual lenses.
When something or someone was beyond their control, they did their part to fix what they could but they also prayed instead of panicked. They often reminded my siblings and me that God was in control, sovereign, and causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Our children are bound to encounter their own set of challenges in life. Seeing how we respond with faith and trust in God during times of testing will strengthen them for the storms that will come their way.
Model the Right Kind of Authenticity – Be humble when you make mistakes
The reality is that we make mistakes as parents. Edric and I have hurt our kids and been bad examples at certain points, and our kids know that we have our weaknesses. But one thing that we have learned is that the best remedy is to humbly ask for their forgiveness and commit to change when we mess up.
Last year Edric and I had a speaking engagement in Baguio on parenting young kids. On the way, we had an issue. One of our kids passed gas in the car and the smell was terrible. Edric was preparing his message and the smell bothered him so much he asked, “Who passed gas?”
A hand went up in the backseat and someone said, “I’m sorry dad, I did.”
Since Edric is sensitive to smells, he felt annoyed, and declared an ultimatum, “Kids, no one is allowed to pass gas in the car EVER.”
When I heard him say this, I felt annoyed. How can this ridiculous, exasperating rule be imposed on young children? We have a three year old!
So, my mistake was I disrespectfully challenged Edric in front of the kids, “So you mean to tell me you never pass gas in the car, hon?”
The kids were listening to us go back and forth as we dragged the verbal arguing on. Finally, we got to the venue and I didn’t want to speak about parenting. I felt like we were parenting failures at that moment.
God convicted me to apologize for my disrespect to Edric and the kids which I did. As for Edric, I just prayed that God would speak to him, especially since one of our sons whispered to my ear, “It’s kind of hypocritical of dad to tell us not to pass gas.”
I replied in faith, “I’m sure your dad will talk to you and you can share this with him.”
Thankfully, that’s exactly what Edric did. He too was convicted about what happened in the car and he apologized to me, to the kids, to everyone. Peace and joy were restored and Edric and I could truthfully stand in front of the audience with our kids sitting in the back.
Since we are imperfect parents, we will make mistakes, but the good news is that the willingness to say sorry and ask for forgiveness keeps our children’s hearts soft.
James 5:16 reminds us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
To encourage the parents out there, God is committed to helping us fulfill our role. He will continue to change us and mold us into the persons He wants us to be. However, we have to be willing to repent and change when we make mistakes.
I want to end by sharing what Edric and I learned from an Easter family breakthrough retreat. Every parent has to be able to ask their children, “How have I hurt you? How can I improve? And will you forgive me for…”
We can try our best to be a model of Christlikeness but if we fail, these questions will keep our kids from developing bitterness and hard hearts towards us and towards following God.
Model the Right Roles
This part was written by my fourteen year old, Elijah:
Around a year ago, right before my thirteenth birthday, my Dad took me to climb Mt. Apo, as sort of a “rite-of-passage” ritual into manhood. He modeled how to be a man. Being very responsible and prepared, Dad created a checklist of things we needed to bring, and pitched a tent in our yard so we could practice for the real thing (it was actually much harder than the real thing, being in our rocky yard), then finally took out our little burner and grilled some food out in our yard, too. But we still ate some of the dinner cooked by Mom. Because we learned from our mistakes, we were able to camp more comfortably on the actual mountain.
At one point during our climb to Mt. Apo, my Dad was so exhausted that he told me, “I’ll probably climb back down and call a helicopter to pick me up.”
However, he kept pushing and made it to the summit. He even shared the gospel with a few people at the top.
During my time with him on the mountain he showed me how to live with very little and be content with it. Although it was difficult, we had a lot of fun. Dad pushing himself made me want to push myself too. I reached the top second! (Of course, our guide got there first.)
Another way my dad teaches me to be a man is through speaking engagements he brings me on, showing me what he does and exposing me to all kinds of people. I learn how a man should conduct himself, how one can communicate effectively, and how to have God-confidence. In his talks, he tries to insert the Gospel as much as spossible, no matter what he is speaking about. This assures me that I, too, can be confident to put verses in my sharing and not be afraid to share God’s word.
Model the Right Priorities
Significantly, one of the most recent things Dad has taught me is the value of priorities. Through the years, Dad has showed me how to give up good things to make way for great things.
Back in September 2015, my Dad got an offer to be an anchor for Mornings@ANC, a morning news show. He told us that he was so excited about the opportunity because it was a major show which paid good money. We also thought that it would be great as a platform for God. So, my Dad took the job after praying about it and getting advice from others.
Initially, it was fun to have him come home after the show to catch us at breakfast and share all the goodies and freebies he would get. And my Dad seemed to enjoy it as he would share stories with my Mom.
However, his schedule was crazy. You see, he had to wake up at 3:30am to be at the studio by 4:30am. To wake up at this time, he had to sleep by around 7:30pm. But this was just a show on top of his other work. So when he got home from the Morning Show, we would catch him for breakfast briefly, then he would leave for work and come home just in time for dinner then head off early to bed.
To be honest, after a few months of this, I felt that Dad wasn’t spending enough time with me anymore, and I am a time person. I hardly got to talk with Dad and I didn’t see him a lot because of his difficult schedule. I tried to forget about it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it because I missed him. So one day, I told my Mom how I felt.
“I feel like Dad has been out too often. His show is taking him away from us.” While I was talking, my eyes started to perspire (because men don’t cry; their eyes only perspire).
Apparently, I was not the only one feeling this way as my brother Edan also shared the same thing to my Mom. Also with eyes tearing.
Because of this, Mom told Dad about it privately. That very same night, Dad spoke to my brother and me. He started the conversation by asking us, “How can I improve?”
Edan and I told him that he was way too busy, and that we missed him. Since I was getting emotional, I stood up for a bit and as I walked away to compose myself, I said to my Dad, “There are more important things in life than money. I will pray for you Dad.”
My Dad then gathered us together and embraced us tightly and looked at us with a smile, and said he would do something about it.
You know what? A few days later my Dad called us to gather around him as a family, saying he had something to share. He then told us that he had resigned from the show! I know it was hard for him because I saw sadness in his eyes. After all, he was turning down such a good opportunity and he would lose income.
When I saw this, I felt like I wanted to take back what I said. But instead, I ended up saying, “Thank you for choosing to be with us.” Then I hugged him tightly.
My dad started to make lots of time for us. We got to spend a lot more time together. So when he didn’t win an award he was nominated for called the Oustanding Young Man award and he felt discouraged, I told him, “You don’t need that award dad. You are the most oustanding man to me.”
Inspired by his example, I try my best to prioritize too. One way is by reading my Bible and praying first thing in the morning, which should be my greatest priority. After that, I try my best to get my responsibilities done like practicing violin and completing homeschool work.
One of the last things I am learning about modeling is that it is not just from my parents to us children, but also from us to our siblings. For instance, I have noticed that my siblings copy me when I read my Bible and practice instruments in the morning. Even Catalina, my three-year-old sister, who cannot read, will pick up her picture Bible and pretend to read.
To be honest, I don’t always model the right things—I don’t always read my Bible like this and I don’t always prioritize my responsibilities. Sometimes, I lose my temper, get impatient, and fight with my siblings. When this happens, I realize that I need to ask for forgiveness and try to improve. That’s something I see my parents do when they too make mistakes and it encourages me to do the same.
Ultimately, their goal and my goal is to copy Christ—he is the perfect model. So please pray Please that I will copy Christ more and more, through the years, and that when I fail, I will be humble and willing to improve. Please pray the same for my parents, that they will be humble and ask for forgiveness when they mess up. I’m sure they would appreciate it. God bless you all!