I often hear people use the expression, “I would never miss __________ with my children.” The words that fill in the blank are varied, but every time this is said, it speaks volumes about your priorities as a parent. If you had to fill in that blank now, not on what you wish was best, but what you actually do, what would fill that blank? What would you never miss with your children? Would one of these fill that blank?

  • School play or field trip
  • Church
  • Athletic event
  • Dance recital
  • Daily devotions
  • Opportunity to hang out
  • Teaching moment
  • Birthday
  • Buying them what they want
  • Helping them with their homework

I am sure this list could be endless. Though we may not realize the impact we are having, our actions in following through on that statement make an impact on our children that will shape their views for life. Most of our children have a desire for us to be proud of them. They will seek to do the things that they perceive impress you as a parent. If you reward them with your time and attention for specific things, they will come to understand that those are the things most important to you. As parents, we may say that other things are a priority, but our time is the reward of significance, and if we are not rewarding what we say is a priority with our time, then it is not the priority that we say that it is.

I have heard it said “What gets rewarded gets repeated”. As a parent, what are you rewarding with your time? When it comes to the things that you say are a priority, does your time commitment match your words? Are you rewarding that priority with time? Many of us want to believe that certain things are important to us and we are teaching those values to our children, but the reality is often they are just ideals and not the reality of the behavior that we are modeling. If we say that education is important and good grades are critical, but we consistently brush off our children when they seek our assistance with their schoolwork, our actions are setting a different priority. If we never miss one of their athletic events, dance recitals or school plays yet we tout that spiritual formation is a priority while any disruption or event hinders family devotions or church attendance, our spoken priorities are losing to our actual priorities. If we are always too busy to hang out with them or too frustrated to use a daily situation as a teaching moment, our priorities may not be what we think they are.

This is a challenge in almost every area of our lives, but I have found it to be extremely critical in parenting. Dedicated time and attention are critical in the formation of values for our children. We all have ideals; things that we really want our lives, our families and our children to look like. Then we have our actions. Our lifestyle that speaks much louder to our children than our words do. What you are rewarding with your time and attention will get repeated. In your long term vision for your family, the ideal that you have in your mind, what needs more of your time and attention? What needs less? Let’s strive to make our actual priorities match our ideals.