Do you remember the old Disney classic, The Fox and the Hound? It doesn’t matter how many times we watched that movie, (and you know how it goes with kids… for a while we watched it over and over and over!) I still cried at the end.
Who could resist the adorable little fox, Todd, and his mischievous ear-to-ear grin?
I still think foxes are cute, and now, I have a new batch of grandkids to enjoy The Fox and the Hound with me.
However, even though I think they’re cute… the truth is that foxes are really destructive little creatures. It’s amazing how much damage one fox can cause to a garden, a tipped over garbage can, or the family dog!
And sometimes, they destroy…
Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, had this to say about the “little foxes.”
"Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom." Song of Solomon 2:15
Solomon recognized that even little foxes could destroy the potential fruitfulness of the vineyard. That’s not the only time that foxes show up in the Scriptures. In fact, in the book of Judges, Samson tied the tails of foxes together and lit them on fire, in order to destroy the crops of the Philistines.
Cute, innocent little harbingers of destruction, indeed!
So it is with our habits, and equally as important, the habits we allow to grow unfettered in the lives of our children. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the subject of habits, lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about just how hard it is to change a habit once it’s been established.
Let me share a true confession. For all 56 years of my life, I’ve been an absolute failure when it comes to skin care. Every single day, the extent of my skin care has been to wash my face in the shower…with soap…bar soap…in fact, plain old Dial soap. I’ve never really worn make-up, (other than mascara and the “mama necessary” under-eye concealer) so I figured, “What’s the big deal about washing it off, anyway?”
Until last week… Last week, my new daughter-in-law-to-be convinced me to attend a “Pampering Session” with her. Ladies, can I just tell you how far outside my comfort zone a “Pampering Session” is??? There, I heard about the long-term horror caused by poor skin care. I blushed in shame at my slothful skin care habits. I dutifully pulled out my debit card and walked away with products that would produce a “new me!”
Now, every morning, obediently and without fail, I wash my face with my new cleanser. Then, as I’m getting in the shower, I remind myself… No.Bar.Soap! I repeat in my mind…"Your face is clean, so just leave it alone!" I promise myself anew that I won’t allow a single sudsy smear of Dial to touch my face. Go ahead… guess what happens…As I follow my normal showering routine, I twirl my bar of Dial until I have completely sudsy hands, then…I automatically reach up and scrub my face with those same old harsh soapy suds.
I just can’t help myself! 56 years of habitual bar soap sudsing is an almost impossible habit to break!!
Why am I sharing this?
As we’re teaching parents, we often sense an attitude of “What’s the big deal?” when it comes to their children’s behavior. As moms and dads, it’s so easy to rationalize away the need to carefully and consistently deal with the day-in and day-out moral training opportunities presented to us by our children. The excuses are so easy and they seem to make so much sense…
“He’s just tired today… I’ll ignore it this time.”
“It’s that time of the month… every girl acts this way.”
“I’m sure they didn’t realize that speaking to me that way was disrespectful.”
“It’s just a stage they’re going through…”
With one easy excuse after another, we allow our children to build little habits of disintegration. Habits that will bear ungodly and destructive fruit in their futures.
Mark Twain said, “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” In other words, habits are nasty little creatures that don’t want to be ejected from their comfortable home in our hearts. Once they’ve been allowed to take root, they build tenacious shoots that wrap their tentacles around our hearts and actions.
And that’s not all, the sad truth is this… unrestrained bad habits in one area will lead us to develop unrestrained bad habits in other areas, as well.
Consider what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 8:11.
“When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.”
In other words, bad habits breed more bad habits and the end result is a character with the bent to scheme wrongdoing!
So, what’s the solution to those bad habits? Well, the truth is that it’s going to first require a realization of what bad habits have permeated our lives, then the development of a concrete plan to extricate those habits through discipline, self-control, and most importantly, the help of the Holy Spirit.
But honestly, there’s an even better way to deal with bad habits.
As we carefully consider our words, thoughts, and actions to determine whether or not they are in alignment with the Word of God, we can quickly uproot any little “habit seeds” before they have a chance to take root. If we’re transparent about the work we’re doing in our own lives to ensure that unbiblical habits don’t have a safe environment to thrive, we’ll be providing a model for our children, as well as earning the right to be heard concerning the “habit seeds” we see fighting for control in their lives.
Helping our children learn to uproot and destroy their own bad habits will pay spiritual dividends in their lives forever. There is no one else equipped and commissioned by God to assist your children in this battle! Moms and Dads, Tag…You’re It!
Yes, it’s hard work!
Yes, it’s going to seem like we’re repeating the same lessons over and over again! (Because we are!)
Yes, our kids aren’t always going to thank us for consistently catching them and taking the time to correct those attitudes and actions that have the potential to put down unbiblical roots!
I’ll be honest, in all of my children’s lives, I see some habits that began when they were young, that have now grown and taken root. Oh, they’re not terrible things, but they are habits that have caused difficulty in their now-adult lives and relationships. At this point, they alone have the responsibility for uprooting those bad habits. However, I can look back and see choices I made or didn’t make, that provided fertile soil for those seemingly unimportant habits to grow. “Little” things that didn’t seem meaningful at the time, that now have caused hurt or disruption in my children’s lives. I wish I’d been thinking with the long-term in mind, instead of choosing the easy path of mothering in those areas!
Moms and dads, pulling our own “bad habit” weeds won't be easy, and helping our children to do the same is just plain hard work! But it is work that is worthy of our effort! It is work that has the potential to protect our children from life-long pain and consequences. And, it’s work that will pay an eternal dividend!
Maybe they’re not so cute and innocent, after all!