One of the most influential minds in the field of psychology belongs to a man named Albert Bandura. His greatest contribution to the science of psychology lies in the concept that people learn from observing and imitating the modeling of others. His theory is powerful, useful, and predictive. His most famous experiments, the Bobo Doll experiments, were conducted in the 1960s, and involved children learning aggressive behavior after observing adults do so with a punching bag doll. Bandura found that boys were likely to engage in aggressive behavior when they had observed a male adult doing so. Girls were less likely to do so after observing male adult models, but more likely to do so after observing female adult models. One conclusion we can draw from his experiments is that our children learn how to react to life by watching how we react to life. The more they are like us, for instance, in their gender, the more powerful the effect.
This element of human learning may be one reason God gives the Hebrews a command in Deuteronomy 6:1-3 to teach their children to observe his laws and to fear him. The payoff, he instructed, would be that things would go well for them in the land, and that they would have long life and prosperity. But it wasn’t just a simple command that he gave them. Instead, he instructed them to carry out the command in a particular way. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 he tells them to talk to their children about those commands when they are sitting at home, when they walk along the road, when they lie down and when they get up, to tie them as symbols on their hands and foreheads, and to write them on their door frames and gates. In other words, God is telling them that observance of his commands, as well as their relationship with him, should be evident to their children in every interaction they have with their parents.
God knows that modeling is powerful. In fact, this is evident from Peter’s claim that Christ is our example (1 Peter 2:21-25). Christ is the model that we are to follow in our lives. God became human so that we could identify with him as human, and model our lives after his.
So make an intentional effort to model for your children the kind of person you want them to be when they have fully matured.