Parenting expert Dr. James Dobson once explained how kids are like geese. Shortly after a gosling hatches from its shell it becomes attached, or “imprinted,” to the first thing that it sees moving. The tiny gosling follows that particular object, usually the mother, until mature enough to live on its own. If the mother goose is removed during the brief imprinting period, however, the gosling will follow whatever else is moving in the vicinity. The window of opportunity is only a few seconds long. And once that opportunity is lost it can’t be regained.

In similar manner, parents are given a limited window of time during which children are receptive to our example and teaching. Those windows of opportunity look different based upon the child’s age and stage of development. We can’t influence a fourteen-year-old child in the same way that we teach a six-year-old. Priorities change as they mature, making it vital that we understand the learning principle.

The Learning Principle

Our children can only learn what we teach them in a manner that will reach them.

There are two important parts to this principle. First, there are things we should know about the tendencies and makeup of those that we are trying to equip – our children – if we hope to reach them. Show us a business that doesn’t understand it’s customer, and we’ll show you a business that is failing. The same is true in the context of parenting. A parent that doesn’t understand the basic nature and character of their child is a parent that is neglecting or blowing the process of spiritual training.

Second, it assumes we want them to actually learn, not just hear, what we teach. If the goal is to make an impact, we must be willing to think outside the proverbial box in order to engage their hearts and minds. The best intentions will still miss the mark if we are aiming at the wrong target.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 commands every dad to “impress” God’s commands on his children. How?

Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Impression points are those times in life when we make an impression upon a child – when we “impress” them with who we are, what we think, or what we do. They can be intentionally created or they can incidentally occur. Either way, they make an impression…for good or bad. Our job is to recognize such occasions and capitalize on the moment.

Heroic Dad Challenge #4: Figure out how to use meal time to create faith impressions in your home by listening to the Meals @ Home podcast available at the INTENTIONAL FATHERS page.

Going Further:

Discover more ideas at the INTENTIONAL FATHERS page.