When I moved into the stage of parenting toddlers, I was quickly convicted of some weak areas in my life. Words I said, habits I had, even what I liked to eat . . . all were imitated by my children. It was one thing to hear a slightly off-color word out of the mouth of an adult, or maybe even a teen, but to hear it from a two-year-old made my skin crawl. Something inside me innately knew it was wrong, but my age and exposure to the world had dulled my sense of it being wrong even for me. I think I expected that as my children grew, they would become more independent thinkers, less likely to imitate what they see and hear, but that is actually not true at all.
Right now, my teenagers are downstairs playing "Ninja" on each other. They are quoting funny "Mythbuster" lines because that is what we just watched. I have laughed at them as they watch shows studying it for cool or funny lines and repeating them ad nauseum for days afterward. It was funny when one of my kids informed me that his goal in life was to be able to converse completely in movie quotes (and I think he's there!). Recently we listened to some Bill Cosby comedy, and in just a hearing or two, they completely memorized the routines. I've come to realize that everyone--young children, teens, and even adults--imitate what surrounds them. How often do we find ourselves using coloquial expressions: "Right on!" "Like . . . totally!" "Dude!" and lately "Seriously?" or "Totally awesome!" (said with a high pitched squeal on the "awesome")
We are creatures made to imitate what we admire.
We return again and again to what we admire, cutting grooves into our minds that match the messages we see and hear. Not only are we creating thought and belief patterns in our own minds, but also in the minds of those we have in tow with us—especially our kids—who are watching and learning too. As I enter further into the task of parenting teenagers, I'm very concerned about ways that I've failed to understand and apply that principle earlier in the lives of my children. For whatever reasons (or excuses), I have allowed influences into their lives unintentionally, without thinking through what they would admire, love, and imitate. I've had to sacrifice some of my goals and plans for them, because I myself derailed those goals by not being intentional about using exposure and influence to shape their passions and their character. I wish that I could go back in time and do things differently, but I'm comforted by the truth that in God's plan there is no plan B, and everything that I've done, intentionally or unintentionally, is a part of His plan A.
I’m currently working through Louie Giglio’s study Wired: for a Life of Worship with my Jr. High girls, and I’m so convicted of the way that imitation is actually a sign of worship. As I study, I’m hoping to write more on what I learn about worship and about the things that influence us.