A few weeks ago, my sister’s five children were at our place for dinner. Along with my five children, this made for quite a lively evening.

As I was busy in the kitchen trying to get dinner ready for ten hungry and noisy children, my older ones helped to set the table and arrange seats for everyone. Then, I heard a familiar refrain: “Who will give up this chair for the other?”

My 13-year-old daughter was addressing her 5-year-old twin cousins, both of whom wanted to sit on the sole high chair that I had. (Isn’t that how it always is? The most desirable thing is what someone else has.)

Giving as Jesus Gave

In our household, whenever there has been a conflict over the use of an item, we do not ask: “Who had it first?” Neither do we insist on the child “sharing” what they are using when someone else asks for it. Instead, from a young age, we have encouraged them to consider giving it up for the other, and forgoing their right to the item altogether.

In so doing, we remind each other of how Jesus gave up all His privileges willingly, came to earth to serve humbly, and to sacrifice Himself for us freely, so that we can be forgiven and have life with God (Matthew 20:28). We can learn from Him and similarly give up our things, time, money, and effort for others’ sake.

Of course, getting our children to understand and carry out this principle is not easy. Sometimes, it takes an extended conversation and much wrestling with their willingness to give up their things and rights. We also try to make sure that both parties will eventually get their turn, and that neither party is taken advantage of.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Later that night, my daughter came to me and remarked, “Mummy, I sounded like you!”

We had a good laugh. Because my husband, Roy, and I have said this so often to our children, the first thing that my daughter thought of during that disagreement were the very same words we would have used: “Who will give this up for the other?” The words that they heard in their younger years had become part of their vocabulary in their teenage years.

As a mother, it was heartening to realise that our words had not come to naught. But it was also sobering, knowing that all we say and do has a far-reaching impact on our children—some of which might be seen only much later in life.

I shouldn’t be surprised, though. These days, I find myself saying the same words my parents told me as a child, such as “think before you speak” and “how we behave affects those around us”.

After all these years, I still remember the three things that my father tried to instil in me and my siblings: respect and submit to our elders; have an unfailing trust in an all-sufficient God; and be content in life. Surely, something must be said for the long-lasting nature of a parent’s words.

I am my father’s daughter, and my children’s mother. What I have seen, heard, and learnt, I pass on to the next generation. As Psalm 78:4 and 7 exhorts us:

We will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
  his power, and the wonders he has done . . .
Then they would put their trust in God
  and would not forget his deeds
  but would keep his commands.

By God’s grace, the life-transforming gospel will give life to my children, just as it did to my parents, and to me and my siblings.

One day, my children will recount for themselves what they learnt from us. And, perhaps they will tell their own children (Psalm 78:6). While they may sound like me and my husband, I pray that we can all say that we sound most like our heavenly Father.

This article was originally published in chewailin.wordpress.com. Adapted with permission.

Ailin is a pastor’s wife, homemaker, and mother to five children. She enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes, but has not succeeded in getting her children to eat their vegetables. Most of all, she is thankful for the grace of God in her life, time spent with her family, and the invention of the washing machine.
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