Dallas Willard has more wisdom than Coke has sugar. Here’s what he says: “The most important thing in your life isn’t what you do; it’s who you become.”
I could spend a lifetime digesting that statement. And not just because of what it means for me.
But because of what it means for my children. And yours.
Who will they become?
Of course, we really don’t know. Maybe a lawyer or limo driver. Maybe a ballerina, bank manager, or Batman!
But one of the things we DO know is that mom and dad are a towering factor in the formation of a child’s character.
If you’re reading this it probably means that you value humility (and strength), and that you want to showcase those traits to your kids.
Me too. But first, an explanation.
- being walked all over
- playing the woe-is-me card
- or failing to advocate for yourself.
In fact, some of the most humble people I know are strong, confident people. I think their humility flows from their strength and confidence.
The word “humble” comes from the Latin humus, which means “soil” or “ground.” So humility has to do with being “down to earth” or rooted in reality. Its siblings are sincerity and authenticity. Humble people are therefore not as easily shaken because they have a rootedness and capacity to bring an eternal perspective to temporary problems. Whereas pride blinds the eyes, humility clarifies.
So humility isn’t the limp of the weak; it’s the muscle of the strong.
— Matthew Ruttan (@MatthewRuttan) July 27, 2016
Who wouldn’t want that for their children?
And I’ve found that one real way to showcase humility (and strength) to children is to do this:
Apologize when you’re wrong.
Yup, deceptively simple.
But one of the reasons many parents don’t do that is because they think that
(a) it will make them appear weak, or
(b) it will undermine their authority.
But when parents apologize to their children when they’re wrong, the exact opposite happens. It demonstrates strength of character, and gives credibility to their authority.
Now don’t get me wrong—this isn’t some modern weak-kneed pseudo-parenting where you never say no to your child, let them set the family’s agenda, or stroke their ego 24-hours a day. Make no mistake about it: If my child wants a second ice cream cone, doesn’t get it, and flails on the floor like a fish out of water, I’m not going to apologize for anything.
There are three ways to deal with disrespect, rudeness and ingratitude: firmly, appropriately, and immediately.
- (To read my blog about how to curb sibling rivalry click here,
- and to read my blog about 5 parenting habits from my parents’ generation that we can bring back, click here.)
But when you apologize when you’re wrong, you’re teaching your child that it’s not all about being right. It’s about being truthful, and about being strong and confident enough to make mistakes.
That doesn’t push a child away from you—it draws them toward you.
Just last week I was a bit harsh with one of my daughters. My sleep-tank was on empty and I had a long day. I felt like I was walking around with barbells on my cranium. I just wasn’t at my best.
So I had a mini-snap.
Afterward, I realized I wasn’t showcasing the grace I so frequently talk about. The way I think about it integrity is character consistency—and I certainly wasn’t being consistent with who I aspire to be.
So I apologized to my daughter.
And when you come to their level and admit your mistake, not only are you being honest, but you’re making a trust deposit in your future relationship.
Although she wouldn’t have said it this way, it was as if her smile said, ‘Thank you so much for caring enough about me to be wrong.’
Parenting can be overwhelming. So sometimes you just need to step back, look at yourself in the mirror, and ask a clarifying question as you set the day’s agenda: What kind of character am I modelling for my family?
Too-tired crankiness? Or humble strength?
You don’t need to change the world. But you do need to change yours.
And as you showcase humility (and strength) to your children, one of the down-to-earth ways you can make that happen is simply to apologize when you’re wrong.