Instructions or Example?

When we are teaching our children what is more effective? Our Instruction or our Example?

Here’s a little story that shows that our example is louder than our instruction.

When Josh was around 4 ½ years old I decided it was time he learnt to help with the dishes (mind you - my other children have learnt younger than this!) Anyway, Josh and I spent time together in the kitchen, I showed him how to dry each different piece – cups, plates, cutlery. Then I let him do it and I helped him get it right. We practiced for a while. Then he had it – he knew how to dry the dishes. So I told him he could finish off the rest and I walked out of the kitchen. He all but immediately followed me and told me it was done. Not possible! So I went back to see why he thought he was done.

When I got to the kitchen I saw that the tea towel was neatly laid over the remainder of the dishes. This was Josh finishing the job.

It then struck me – I never dry dishes. I always lay the tea towel over the top and let them drain. My example was stronger in his head than all that instruction we had walked through. It was my example that he followed, not my instruction.

Now every allegory has its limitations but this story sure speaks loud. We need to be living out what we teach. There is no way the maxim – do what I say, not what I do – works with kids. We need to be honest with ourselves, and get our practices up to speed! We need to be a model worth mimicking.


Live life with your kids!



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