After parenting for almost twenty years now, my husband and I were challenged to come up with a list of 5 things we would do all over again as it relates to raising kids. I’ve already shared a few things we are glad we did, like imagining the end, saying words that build, and connecting everyday moments to God’s story. Another thing we would most certainly do again is to focus on becoming the person we want our kids to be.

You’ve probably heard the old expression, “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.” Basically, if you want to see what your kids will be like when they’re grown, just look in the mirror.

The older I get, the more I hear myself sounding like my mom. It may be a phrase I say or the way I say it, but it’s 100% her.  When I call my kids “baby” and “sweetheart,” that’s my mom. Going without so my kids don’t, that’s my mom again. Or getting so frustrated I want to throw something (and sometimes do). . .  well, that’s all mom, too.

I picked up a lot from my dad as well. I can be as hardheaded as the next person, over-explain the simplest things, and I have an excellent work ethic—all thanks to my dad. And my love for reading, writing, and studying the Bible? That’s all dad, too.

I am a lot like my parents, and they never once had to sit me down and instruct me on how to be like them. It just happened, because they are the people I was around the most growing up. The same will be true for my kids as they continue to grow into adults.

I realized a long time ago that the person I choose to be, as I raise my kids, could either make life easier, or harder, for my kids as they become adults. That’s when my husband and I made it a priority to fight to be the person we want our kids to be.

Being aware of why we do and say the things we do is very important in being the person we want our kids to be.  There are some things we say and do, like our parents did, that are awesome—like my mom’s sacrificial love and my dad’s admirable work ethic. Those are things I want to keep and pass along to my kids.

But there are also things we say and do because our parents did, that we need to stop—like my mom’s angry outbursts and my dad’s hard-headedness, both of which I picked up and am trying to put down. I do not want to pass those things along to my kids.  

Every parent has a different story. For some, it will be easier than others, depending on what was modeled for you by your parents. But you need to know this:

You can continue to be who you were raised to be.
You don’t have to be who you were raised to be.
You have a choice.

Because of Jesus, you and I can choose to be who God made us to be.

But how do we know which behaviors to keep and which to let go? Over the years, we have used Galatians 5:22-23 as a guide for working toward becoming the kind of person we want our kids to be: a person characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I want to be this kind of person. I want to live these things out in front of my kids. And in doing so, make it easier for my kids to live these things out in front of their kids.

If you didn’t have a good model for these characteristics in the home you grew up in, you will have to fight to be different, break the cycle, and allow God to work in you even more.

Speaking from experience, it will be hard. (It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.)

There will be days when you lose the battle. (I’ve lost many.)

Every day is a new day to try again. (My kids seeing me fight to be different is a gift in itself.)

You are the most powerful influence in your kid’s life, simply because of the amount of time you are with them. That’s why it’s important that you be the person you want your kids to be—today, tomorrow, and the next day. So, keep fighting. I know I am.

How are you most like the people who raised you? Which behaviors do you want to pass on to your kids and which do you want to stop with you?