Teachable Moments

Every Example Is a Good Example

When something positive happens, I learn what to do; when something negative happens, I learn what not to do.

About 18 years ago, our little family of 5 went out to eat at our favorite family-friendly BBQ restaurant.  The ribs were divine and the kids’ meal prices inexpensive; in other words, perfect for my husband, myself and our 3 children ages 5, 4 and 2.  As we finished ordering and were eating our way through baskets of honey-buttered cornbread, a family of 4 sat behind us. All seemed well until the waitress brought the children chocolate milk; and then, it sounded like a pack of wounded dogs.  Howling, crying and children intentionally throwing chocolate milk everywhere. What in the world? Everyone in the restaurant froze, waiting for the explanation to be made evident. And then – the unimaginable offense became clear to all. The waitress had brought the child’s chocolate milk in a….wait for it!….child-size cup that had a lid.  How offensive could she be! (tongue in cheek here)

But more shocking than this perceived problem was that neither parent corrected the children’s behavior; the tiny tyrants at the ripe old ages of 2 and 4 wanted a BIG glass of chocolate milk.  Their sensibilities had been gravely offended because they didn’t want a “baby” cup with a lid – they wanted MORE and they wanted it NOW. And as such, they believed they had every right to throw a public tantrum.

We stopped and we stared.  And a million questions came to mind: the crisis that interrupted and stopped everyone from being able to enjoy their meal was because of the size of a cup?  And even if that was the sin that topped all sins, instead of requesting a different cup, the children had to scream and yell and actually spill it everywhere?  And the parents were offended as well and gave no correction either in how the children handled their disappointment nor their rude treatment of their waitress who was serving them?  Seriously?

Our children turned to Brian and myself and we could tell they were waiting.  They assumed we would gain control of this situation and tell these itty-bitty dictators who were ruining the evening for everyone to knock it off.  We didn’t. Not because we couldn’t, but we were too shocked to figure out what or if anything could be done. What would be the best intervention and Christian witness as believing parents?  What example would best be lived out in front of our kids? We were saved from trying to figure this out as the manager saved the day with 2 adult size glasses of chocolate milk, one of which the 2-year old promptly dropped on the floor because it was too big for him to handle (sigh).  I fondly remember this evening as “Chocolate Milk Bandits Hold-up Restaurant And Get-Away With Murder.”

More than a ruined meal, this show of poor behavior with lack of parenting guidance was a valuable Teachable Moment for our children.  They had the same questions we had plus one more:  what would we have done had they acted like that?  Brian and I just smiled at our inquisitive kids.  We didn’t need to answer, because they already knew that none of them would have ever acted that way in the first place.  And if they did, well – they knew that no self-control and unkind, rude behavior toward anyone would ever be tolerated. This horrendous example of emotions with no boundaries and the allowance of such unkind, selfish treatment toward anyone, let alone someone who was serving them, was appalling but valuable.  How so?

  • It reaffirmed our values as a family (Gal. 5:22,23).  The fruit of the Spirit list self-control and kindness as products of a relationship with Christ.  Believers are filled with the Holy Spirit and He makes a difference in the character and behavior of those who walk with Him.  We are a Christ-honoring family and will strive to exemplify lives of worship to our deserving King.
  • It showed what life looks like when we are not walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).  Not knowing where this family stood spiritually certainly did not excuse such poor behavior on their part.  And even if they were Christ-followers, when we do not walk in the Spirit and strive to “love one another” (John 13:34,35) as Christ has commanded us, then this is what humans act like when they love themselves more than God.
  • It allowed us to explore the emotions of disappointment and anger (Gal. 5:19-21).  None of us get what we want all the time and thus, life is disappointing and we get angry.  These emotions are not sinful unless they come from sinful motives or we express them in sinful ways.  We were able to identify, define, and explain these emotions’ impact on our behaviors if we are not careful with them.  We discussed choice and the reliance we can have on God to help us deal with whatever situation we are in. He provides the power to overcome our fleshly instincts.

All examples are good examples for they either reflect a Christ-focused life, dependent on the Spirit to enable us to live out our love for Christ, or they illustrate what life looks like when we displace God from His throne and live for our own pleasure and desires.  Identifying these examples as they pop up in our lives are key Teachable Moments, both for parents and children.

Dear Reader, may you and I be alert and ready to be shaped by today’s examples so that we are conformed more clearly to the image of God.  May we do this first for ourselves, and then for our children. May we be able to show them how to embrace these divine opportunities for learning so they also can recognize the Teachable Moments God provides for them.

I look forward to hearing from you and any Teachable Moments God appoints for your benefit this week.  And…Beware of the Chocolate Milk Bandits! 🙂

Fondly yours, Elizabeth