It was Father’s Day this past weekend. Being a father to my three sons is a special gift from God—a role I’ve always cherished.

Children are always watching their parents (or whoever raises them): what they do, what they say, how they act. It’s one of the ways they learn what to do and how they are supposed to act. We can’t hand schools, churches, or any other institution the responsibility of teaching our children right from wrong. It’s our role as parents, and it’s our job to teach them well.

If you could see a film of yourself, would you be happy with what you’ve been teaching them? If you are like me, you might be embarrassed at some of what you saw on that film.

I’m certainly not perfect. None of us are! What I’ve also learned about children is they look at the “big picture” more than we give them credit for.

In other words, they’re looking to see if we are consistent in how we behave, in what we say, and in what we do. If we screw up occasionally, they’ll still love and respect us. Our kids will forgive us and look past what they didn’t like.

However, a person’s true character shines through when times are difficult. We see it in others, and our children see it in us. The biggest lessons we will ever teach our children come when we face adversity ourselves. They learn by watching how we respond to difficulties.

And Jesus even told us we will have troubles. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Don’t think for a moment you can hide from your children what happens to you at work. You can’t! And if you have adult children who don’t live at home, know they’re always watching, too.

Reflect on the most difficult times you’ve had in your career. I’ve had a few:

• I worked for a leader whom I lost respect for.
• I worked with peers whom I couldn’t trust because they didn’t care about truth and treated others who disagreed with them poorly.
• I’ve had subordinates who were challenging to manage and hurt others on our team.
• My job was eliminated twice.
• I’ve been part of an organization that merged with another, and I was uncertain what that would mean for me.

When these and other adversities strike, what do you teach your children?

Start with your reaction. First, don’t outwardly complain and badmouth those you work for or are in conflict with. If you do, you are teaching your children it’s okay to behave that way. And they’ll follow your example. They’ll criticize their teacher, their coach, their principal. If you blame others, never accepting responsibility for your actions, you’ll teach your children that personal accountability isn’t necessary.

God tells us we should persevere in difficult times and that he’s there to help: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Don’t quit when it gets tough.

If you are uncertain what to do, just ask yourself, “What Would Jesus Do?” He has the answers.

Join the conversation! Have you watched a parent go through a difficult time at work? Or have you, as a parent, struggled to be a good example to your kids? What was your experience, and what did you learn?

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