I remember a time when I brought my children to McDonald’s for an after school treat; something we try to do on Friday’s. After I finished paying, I turned around to see my children rushing over to help an elderly woman who had just dropped a large soda onto the floor. One of my children was walking the woman out of the area so she wouldn’t slip. Another was grabbing napkins by the handful, another was using the napkins to mop up the mess. It wasn’t long before this mamma was beaming with pride in how her children leaped up to help someone in need…. without being told!
You hope that your children will always do the right thing, strive to help others, keep their word, be honest, faithful, loyal, kind, etc. How exactly can you help your kids develop these skills and most of all, ensure that they will carry them with them when you are no longer around? After all, character is what you do when no one else is watching.
Here are 3 things you can do that will get you started in building lasting character in your children:
1. Give your children a good foundation.
Quite possibly the best thing you can do for your children is to give them a good, Biblical, foundation to rest their entire lives upon. When the rough times come, your children should trust in God and do as He has commanded. The current message the world sends to us all is, “Trust in your heart… follow your heart… do what makes you happy…”
In Jeremiah 17:9, the Bible teaches us that our heart is deceitful and desperately sick. In Matthew 15:19, Jesus teaches that evil thoughts, lying, gossip, and all other sin comes out of our hearts. Should you really encourage your child to “follow your heart”? For that matter, as parents should we be following our own hearts? I doubt it.
Instead, follow God’s word. Give your children the knowledge that comes from God’s word so that when a decision is to be made, they will hold it up to the light, and follow the path that leads to righteousness.
2. Be a great role model.
You may say, “Do as I say, not as I do”, but we all know what really happens is “monkey see monkey do”. I remember a long time ago listening to a song that had a few inappropriate sayings in it. While the song was playing, I turned off the car and to my surprises my sweet innocent 3 year old finished out the next few lines without the radio. To my horror, I realized that he had picked up these sayings without me realizing it. He may not know what the words mean, but I realized he really was listening and learning from me at all times. This was the beginning of setting up myself to be a good role model for my children, and for those around me. Sure, I’m not perfect, but that’s part of being a good role model; failing and demonstrating how to still act honorably.
One of the most frustrating things a parent can face is when their child lies or is deceitful in some way. Without realizing it, you may be teaching your child that lying is okay through your own words and actions. Have you ever told a white lie in order to get a benefit? I know many a parent who have had a 10 year old for at least 3 years so they can save a few dollars on a meal at a restaurant. Or maybe you tell your boss you’re home sick, when really you just needed a little more sleep? When people ask for prayer, do you really pray for them? Do you tell your children to pray before they eat, but when you’re flying through lunch on your way to the next meeting, do you stop and thank God for His blessing?
Think about how your words and actions are sending a message to your child.
3. Give yourself a break.
Parents are people, and people are not perfect. Sometimes we are frustrated, busy, distracted, or short-tempered. We say a hasty thing, or raise our voice unnecessarily. Many parents even make the mistake of swatting and spanking their children while they are angry or frustrated. They forget to cut the crust off their sandwich, or even put mayo (which they hate) on the bread. Give yourself a break. You’ll make some mistakes, but the key is to recognize them and make a change. You can teach your children a valuable skill when you admit to them that you’ve made a mistake and ask for their forgiveness.
Don’t forget to also give yourself a break as in taking time out for just you, or you and your spouse. Send the kids to grandma’s house, hire a babysitter, or drop them off with a friend while you and your spouse go on a date. Make it a fun date where you can focus on each other, and not just running down the list of things to do with and for your children for the upcoming week. Reconnecting with your spouse will give you some much needed energy to get back to the daily grind.
Scriptures for Meditation
“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15
“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” Proverbs 28:6
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;” Ephesians 4:22