Bossy Shirts

I don’t know if you’ve been shopping lately, but I’ve noticed something simliar from store to store. I call them bossy shirts. These are t-shirts with an imperative: DO THIS! I’ve seen shirts that tell the reader to recycle, to choose love, to be the change, and more.

While some of these t-shirts provide great reminders of ways that humans should act, they have caused me to wonder. Are these shirts effective? When someone reads a t-shirt imperative that says Be Kind, does that person then act kinder to the person in the grocery store line, in the parking lot, or at the dinner table? When someone reads a shirt that says Recycle, would a person who does not recycle then go home and change her ways?

I began to wonder how what we say translates to what we do, particularly related to parenting. Growing up, I remember adults saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” yet I’ve noticed (as an adult) that this parenting model doesn’t generally work. Whether they want to copy their parents, or not, children generally pick up many of their parents’ habits.

I’ve watched my own behavior imitate my parents’ behavior. While many of these behaviors are postive (i.e.: attend church on Sundays, say please and thank you, etc.), there are some that I wish I had not seen and that I hope not to pass on to my children (i.e.: worrying).

As a parent, I realize that what I do may be more powerful than what I say. So how does this relate to Christian parenting? Here are some practical ways that parents can model for thier children (rather than just tell them) how to be disciples of Jesus.:

  • Say: It’s important to go to church regularly. Do: When there is an option to sleep in, or miss church regularly for outdoor summer activities, choose church more times than not.
  • Say: The Bible is important. Do: Let your child see you read your Bible. Bonus points if you read the Bible with your child or discuss what you’ve read.
  • Say: Prayer allows us to talk to God. Do: Make an effort to pray with your child before meals, on the way to school, on a road trip, and before bed.
  • Say: Act like Jesus. Do: Notice aloud when you’ve seen your child acting like Jesus (i.e.: being kind to a child who is left out on the playground, responding with grace when someone acts in an unkind way, etc.). Tell your child when you’ve done a good job acting like Jesus at work, in the car, or at the gym, and reflect on times when you could have done a better job acting like Jesus.
  • Say: Don’t say bad words. Do: Do your best to model language that you would use if Jesus was standing beside you. When you fail, own it and pledge to do better next time.

Modeling (not explaining) Christian behavior is the most effective way people to learn how to become disciples of Jesus. Thankfully, there is an abundance of grace. We are not called to be perfect parents, yet we have a great responsbility to raise our children in faith (with God’s help and the support of other Christian parents). So, let’s do more than tell our children how to act (i.e.: wearing bossy shirts). Let’s show our children how to be disciples of Jesus.