Kids long to be like their parents. They mimic every move of Mom and Dad simply because they are Mom and Dad. It’s tremendously beautiful. And, it’s equally terrifying.

One of our daughters loves coloring books. Books were honestly one of her first toys, probably because she sees her parents reading a lot. She is constantly asking us to read to her (insert proud Daddy comment). But now she’s getting a bit older and she wants to paint, color, and create – so we bought her coloring books.

A few days ago I was reading a book with my highlighter (not that you would ever read a book without one), and she came over and asked, “Daddy, what are you doing?” I simply replied, “I’m reading my book.” To which she responded, “And you are coloring in it.” Hilarious. She sees me using the orange highlighter and connects the dots that Daddy does coloring books too.

Then, just yesterday I heard her playing and she yells into the other room where I am, “Daddy come here!” I was talking to Emily, so I waited a minute. As I made my way to the family room, my daughter met me in the kitchen, carrying the book I’ve been reading. I asked her what she had been doing and she says, “Coloring in your book.” You can see her artwork below.

Tessa Coloring

How priceless is that?!? She wants to be just like Daddy. Reading books isn’t enough. Coloring in books isn’t enough. She wants to use my highlighter to color in my book just the way she saw me do it.

And here’s the scary part: she’s going to try to be just like me in the areas where I’m a screw-up. Yes, we teach her that Daddy is a sinner and that Jesus had to make his dirty heart clean. But the fact remains, she will emulate my mistakes. Now that’s some weighty business.

She’s going to speak to my wife just like I speak to her. She’s going to complain about people who irritate me just like I complain about them. She’s going to value technology over people to the extent that I do. She’s going to see housecleaning as only mom’s slavish job to the family to the extent that I do. You realize I’m only scratching the surface, right?

Dads, your sons and daughters are watching. Moms, your sons and daughters are watching. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. Will they see you tell your spouse you are sorry and seek forgiveness? Will they see you live on mission in your neighborhood? Will they see you love the unlovables, motivated by the love of Jesus instead of duty? Will they know that Daddy always reads his Bible in the big green chair in the morning?

You only get one shot at being a parent. Your kids are watching and they will be just like you.

Scared? You should be. I should be. Our only hope is that Jesus has won the battles we couldn’t win. He’s carried the torch where we have fallen. You can either model “rules-driven, try harder to be a good parent, legalism” or you can model “run to Jesus, I can’t do it, Gospel truth.”

Choose the latter, for your sake and for your kids.