I remember years ago, another mom and I were hashing out the whole parenting thing and she asked, “What good is it if our kids are super smart but they are also jerks?” That one question, asked almost 20 years ago, made such a great impact on me. I needed to think about the entire parenting package. I needed to intentionally focus on developing my child’s character.
When they are little, some of this is pretty basic. It’s simple to role play desired behavior before it is required. When we would pull into the grocery store parking lot, before ever exiting the vehcile, I would ask my three littles, “Are we going to ask for treats and candy?” “No!” came their sing-song answer in unison. I would continue, “Are we going to beg for cookies?” “No!” they chimed with conviction. “Are we going to sneak things into the cart?” “No!” they cheered adamantly. And away we would go, a happy team, with expectations set. Of course, this method backfired on my when the kids hit Junior High. We had been working on attitude and how to approach each other with the right tone of voice. “It’s all in the presentation,” I would tell them. “I’m much more inclined to listen and give in if you are asking nicely.” Well, money was getting tight and one day, before entering Costco, I said, “Remember, don’t ask for anything. We are only getting what we need.” There we were, going up and down the aisles, when my son casually put a gigantic box of DingDongs into the cart! “Hey!” I reproached, “We are only getting what we need!” And he looked at me with puppy dog eyes and his signature smirk and said, “Everybody needs a doorbell.” Then my daughter chimed in, “It’s all in the presentation, right mom?” They had me. Great attitudes and clever senses of humor equalled one gigantic box of DingDongs. But I digress…
So, while role playing is simple when they are little, it is vital that we transition into actually modeling godly character when our kids get older. I remember a pastor sharing how he had been helping with the care of his elderly parent. The situation was growing more and more time consuming and frustrating. One day, after finishing up caring for his dad’s most basic needs, he and his teenage son were heading home. Without really expecting an answer, he asked his son, “Gosh, how would you deal with all this if you had to?” To our pastor’s astonishment, his son replied, “I don’t know, dad. That’s why I’m watching you.” There it was. Our kids are always watching us. So we better be modeling biblical character.
I know for a fact that more often than not, I fall quite short of this goal. It does help, though, to surround yourself with other godly moms. For years, painted on our family room wall was the the verse: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8” I love that verse because it focuses on our character, what we think about. If you surround yourself with like minded moms, then you can hold yourselves accountable to each other, focusing on biblical truths rather than gossip and slander, as many of us ladies are prone to do. If, each day, we did nothing else right but still managed to model Phillipians 4:8, we would be well on our way to developing godly character in our children.
In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says, “We cannot say – ‘Now I am going to think no evil; I am going to believe all things.’ The characteristic of love is spontaneity. We do not set the statements of Jesus in front of us as a standard; but when His Spirit is having His way with us, we live according to His standard without knowing it…”
We need to model good character for our children and to do so, we need to actually be living godly lives.
A dear friend has the most amazing wallpaper on her sons’ bathroom wall. Basically, it is just text running across the paper with little nuggets of wisdom for life: “Count your blessings. Learn to have fun. Don’t grocery shop when you are hungry. Forget the Joneses. Hug children. Be the first to say hello. Make your bed. Don’t hide the broccoli in your milk. Donate blood. Praise in public, criticize in private. Attend reunions. Pay your fair share.” The list goes on and I love it. All of these nifty tidbits are just snapshots of how we can model character for our kids.
However, if you are looking for something a bit more concise than some sayings on wallpaper, the best thing I’ve come across is from Dr. Helen LeGette’s book, Parents, Kids & Character: Twenty-One Strategies to Help Your Children Develop Good Character. The handy list is below and a review of the book is available when you click on this link:
The 21 highly useful strategies LeGette recommends are:
1. Model good character in the home.
2. Be clear about your values and beliefs. Tell your children where you stand on important issues.
3. Show respect for your spouse, your children, and other family members.
4. Model and teach your children good manners. Insist that all family members use good manners at home.
5. Have family meals together without television as often as possible.
6. Plan as many family activities as possible. Involve your children in the planning.
7. Worship together as a family.
8. Don’t provide your children access to alcohol or drugs. Model appropriate behavior regarding alcohol and drugs.
9. Plan family service projects or civic activities.
10. Read to your children and keep good literature in the home.
11. Limit your children’s spending money. Help them appreciate non-material rewards.
12. Discuss holidays and their meanings. Have family celebrations and establish family traditions.
13. Capitalize on the “teachable moment”. Use situations to spark family discussions on important issues.
14. Assign home responsibilities to all family members.
15. Set clear expectations for your children and hold them accountable for their actions.
16. Keep your children busy in positive activities.
17. Learn to say no and mean it.
18. Know where your children are, what they are doing, and with whom.
19. Don’t cover for your children or make excuses for their inappropriate behavior.
20. Know what TV shows, videos and movies your children are watching.
21. Remember that you are the adult!