A few weeks ago, one of the thought-provoking posts on a discussion board I am part of asked "will you tell your kids about the mistakes you've made?" This question was answered with a myriad of honest thoughts. I myself didn't really answer with too much detail, just that I would never lie to my children about my past. The answers from other members did cause me to really think about a lot of things concerning what we talk to our children about. I think about this question a lot, even before it was posed on our board, and I have been dwelling particularly on the line that's drawn between teaching lessons from mistakes we've made and being hypocritical, especially when it comes to immorality. It is a personal issue and something I grapple with often. A lot of people in the world think that they can't tell their children what not to do in certain situations because they did the same thing and it would be hypocritical for them to tell their children not to do it. It seems that some people also think that children need to learn life's lessons on their own. But I have to wonder, when it comes to the bigger issues, is this is just a cop-out because they're too lazy to make the effort or do some parents really believe that?
Take for instance the issue of premarital sex. This is a very personal issue within our family because we did not wait until we were married and our oldest daughter was born less than a month before our wedding, a wedding that in many ways took place because of her. In my heart I always believed that sex before marriage was wrong but there were a lot of things that happened, which led to my not following that belief. When our daughter is old enough to understand, she will question why she's in our wedding pictures. Is it hypocritical for us to teach her that premarital sex is wrong when we have obvious proof that we didn't heed our own teaching? I don't think so. Some people would tell me (and have told me) that it would be wrong for us to teach that after the example that we've set.
God calls us to remain pure until we are joined with our spouses in marital union. It's everywhere in the Bible, yet there are many Christians who feel this is the "old school" way of doing things. I don't understand why they think that God's word changes with the times. Both my husband and I know we made a mistake. My husband has told me on more than one occasion that he regrets being with anyone but me and that we were "together" before we got married. It's a lesson we both have learned through all the pitfalls that not waiting created. It's not a lesson we feel our children should learn on their own. Lessons of moral values are not usually ones parents let children learn all on their own. And I believe that the foundation for such things has to begin with teaching them the reasons for believing them, not just telling them to believe them and leaving it at that.
I feel like it is our duty to give our children a strong foundation for making the right choices, through our teaching, regardless of whether we made the very mistakes we are teaching them about. It's not like teaching them that they should always tie their shoe laces if they don't want to trip and fall. It's about the important issue of the condition of their soul and it goes beyond learning these things the hard way. A child may eventually learn to always tie his shoelaces, after falling on his face a few times but how many times does he need to be hurt in all the ways something like premarital sex can hurt him before he really learns his lesson? And why would we sit back and let him learn this lesson on his own, knowing so much destruction can come from such a mistake, when we have the tools- and the moral obligation- to help him avoid it?
Sometimes it's enough to tell them about (or show them) the outcome of the mistakes we've made and sometimes it's not. But we can't just leave it to chance. We can't be lazy hoping that they will make the right choice or that they'll be OK if they don't. Loving our children means making an effort to give them the best possible chances in life, especially when it comes to making the right choices. We have to arm them with knowledge and the ability to understand what God asks of us as His children. I feel like it's a necessary part of parenting, especially parenting God's way, to teach them everything He would teach them with the love and patience He would have and to take the time to really touch their hearts with these teachings.