In my last post, I talked about the two components of teaching good character traits to our children:
- Modeling by example
- Using a character curriculum or topic-based Bible study as a framework of instruction.
Choosing a character curriculum
There are many to choose from these days, but here are some things to watch for:
1. Make sure the curriculum focuses on heart change, rather than only behavior modification.
Deuteronomy 6:5, 6 tells us, “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day, shall be in your heart.”
Teaching character to our children from a purely logical, what’s-in-it-for-them perspective will not bear good fruit, long-term. If we somehow implant in them the idea that exhibiting good character is about expediency — experiencing success, being rewarded for good behavior and suffering consequences for bad behavior, we only end up stroking their flesh.
- If you learn to be kind, you will get along better with people and in the workplace.
- Integrity is an important stepping stone to success.
- People will think well of you if you do x, y, and z. If you do otherwise, you won’t be liked / won’t be promoted / will ruin your reputation.
While those things are true in a general sense, taking the high road of good character will sometimes lead us into suffering. We must prepare our children to do what is right even if that means enduring negative outcomes.
Teaching our children only to modify their outward behavior cultivates a mentality of doing the right thing so as not to get caught in unpleasant consequences. It can lead to legalism, because it dwells on our works and ability to do well in our own strength.
Character curriculum which focuses on the heart, on the other hand, will emphasize inner attitudes and leaning on Jesus for help to do what is right.
- How will Jesus feel if I do this or that? Will it make Him sad or happy?
- What would Jesus do in my situation? Why?
- If I do or say this, will I hurt someone else?
Character education aimed at the heart will lead to greater desire for relationship with Jesus and a yearning to be like Him, simply because He is worthy. If we can get to our children’s heart attitudes, the outward behavior will follow along.
2. The curriculum should be Bible-centered.
Several of the popular character programs available are focused on logic and behavior modification — because they do not have Jesus as their beginning reason. Why would we, as Christian parents, even consider teaching our children character from a secular worldview? Yet, some do, because of rave reviews or an economical price.
Try to find materials which fit well with your beliefs. However, no program is perfect for all families. It is likely that even with the best of them you will need to make some adjustments. Choose materials which center on Jesus and are doctrinally sound. Your denomination may even have the resources you need.
3. Free is not always best.
I know money can be tight, but don’t let the temptation to choose “free” keep your children from a great character education.
With character education, once is not enough.
Just like with other things we teach our children, building strong character means we will need to repeat the instruction to reinforce it. That could mean using more than one character curriculum through the years, or reviewing and repeating the one you have. I recommend that people go through our curriculum, Character Building for Families, more than once — because we all tend to forget things we have learned, and God focuses our attention on one aspect the first time and a different point the next.
You are in this for the long haul.
Character education takes time. It is not a, “We accomplished that and now we’re done” kind of thing. You will need to be patient and diligent in forming your children’s character. Consistency is key, both in instruction and in putting it into practice. We are discipling our children, and that doesn’t happen quickly or easily.
Prayer and the Word are essential components of character building.
1. Pray for your children’s character. Parents’ prayers are powerful. They touch the heart of God. And they cooperate with the desires our heavenly Father already has for our children.
2. Teach your children to develop consistent prayer and Bible reading habits. This is such an important part of building their character. As they absorb God’s Word and commune with Him, they can’t help but grow in Christ’s likeness. Becoming increasingly like Jesus should be the goal of every Christian. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). We can help our children begin at an early age by teaching them to pray and read the Word.
3. Teach your children to recognize, be sensitive to, and obey God’s voice.
If you need help with teaching your children how to pray and hear God’s voice, we have a couple of short, practical books to assist you. Simply click the images below.
Raising our children to be people of Christ-like character is not easy, but it is the most important task we have been entrusted with for our families. Diligently persevering in it reaps great rewards in their lives and for us in eternity. Though not easy, as you lean on the Lord, He will abundantly help you to reach the goal.
Character Building for Families,
by Lee Ann Rubsam