In Growing Kids God’s Way we have been learning on the importance of character training in the home.
As parents, we have the most important responsibility in teaching the standard of right and wrong and transcribing this moral code into the trainable part of the child’s conscience, strengthening and elevating their heart towards biblical virtues.
We learn that character and moral training go hand in hand. When we intentionally deposit biblical virtues into a child’s moral warehouse, their conscience will align their actions with the values and virtues stored within.
Moral training then becomes a priority because a godly character ultimately supersedes skill, talent and even ability. Character when embodied in our personality, define God to the world. Through our family, we can help the world to see God in a tangible, personal way. Parenting as such, becomes a kingdom business.
This is new and revolutionary to me in many ways. I have always been taught that priority should be given to academic excellence, since success in life stems from that. I think this thinking is the drive behind why so many of us run ourselves thin trying to ensure that our kids participate in everything that will make them “better, smarter”.
The truth is that character training does not happen in a vacuum. When we as parents do not deliberately and systematically instil God’s values into the heart of our children, we are training them to be morally inadequate. This means the what, why and how of what we teach our children is paramount in enlarging their capacity to understand right and wrong.
Ultimately we want our children to do the right thing because the values have been ingrained into their very fibre of being and because their hearts have been trained to love the virtue behind the instruction. Are we as parents trying to do the right thing out of the love for the virtue or out of the fear of reproof?
Many parents (us included) have made the mistake of trying to get our children to conform to the right behaviour by instilling guilt and fear instead of showing the moral reason why.
The fear of being caught, and the desire to avoid guilt often become the overarching reason why our child would want to comply, rather than the love for doing right. This is where we don’t want to go. In the long run, we want our children to obey out of devotion rather than duty. Guilt and fear produces a prohibitive conscience in the child rather than a positive, liberated conscience.
So how do we as parents go about this task of developing character in our children in a manner that is meaningful, systematic and age appropriate?
1. IDENTIFY THE CHARACTER TRAITS
Firstly, i believe we have to be able to identify what these character traits are that will magnify and glorify God. Character training will be a lifelong process and it is useful to have a list of the traits that you want to target as a family and to do it in a fun yet systematic way. Character training will need to happen both formally and informally. Focussing one character trait a month would be a good pace as you need to allow the truth to marinate your hearts in the daily process and application.
Some examples of character traits that the Bible promotes are wisdom, security, gratefulness, honesty, compassion, courage, contentment, diligence, discernment, gentleness and holiness.
More examples can be found in this link: http://www.duggarfamily.com/content/character_qualities
A great resource that many families, schools and institutions have used is from Character First – http://characterfirsteducation.com.
A really wonderful resource: “What Every Child Should Know along the Way” provides a list of traits, along with examples of biblical figures for your family to delve into.
To make my training systematic and manageable, i incorporate the Ziplock Character Training Bag to be used in my home with ideas from Character First.
So this is how I did it:
1) I typed out a personalised worksheet on 1 character trait (this month is “gratitude”) for each child (personalised with their name and special activities and training goals for the different ages).
Click here for file:
2) I inserted a Character Focus newsletter on that specific trait for my child’s reading during room time.
Click here for file
3) I downloaded a couple of free activities that my child can add onto their learning as the days and weeks progress from the Character First Website
4) I used these two books to aid me with linking that specific character with what the Bible says
5) There are also videos of poems, songs and animal stories from here that explain the character trait in greater detail and i find them quite captivating for the children.
Having them all within 1 ziplock bag is organised and systematic. You can add more content into the bag as your learning, activity and application increases and you can build a whole library of different character traits that can be passed down from one child to the next.
3) LOOK FOR TEACHABLE MOMENTS
And in the course of your daily life during those informal moments, you can build upon your child’s understanding on how that character is displayed practically by going through the “I Wills”. The examples given are very doable and concrete for our children’s young minds. And as the oldest displays the behaviour, we can train them to teach the younger ones how to do just the same – which reminds me that our family is literally our primary disciples!
You can also build a star chart and ask your child to rate how they go in exhibiting that character. Or create a poster with your child’s full-bodied portrait with the kind of character traits they want to grow up with. This is a very powerful visual for young minds to remember that this is how they want to be in the future.
So this is how i organise and systemise my character training. What about you? xx