It seems that basic morals and character are in the decline these days, but it doesn't need to be that way. I happen to know a whole crowd of teenagers with real morals and Godly character. It it possible to raise children of character in a world with little of it. But how? Here are three tips for training your kids in Godly Character.
1. It starts by modeling good character. Your kids will become what you are. One youth minister was said to have complained to his senior pastor, saying, "No matter what I do, these kids insist on acting like their parents." He's right. No matter what you say to your kids, they will end up acting like you act. Sorry. I hope you aren't reading this too early in the morning, because that revelation might give you a headache. But it's true. As a pastor's wife, I have had the opportunity to watch parents and their kids over the years. Repeatedly, I have watched those kids grow up and ultimately make the same life choices their parents made. It is a rare kid that grows up to live life differently from his parents, and the only way he will succeed is with great determination. If you want your kids to behave differently than you, it starts by changing YOU, not them.
2. Never underestimate the power of influence. This really ties into #1. Parents are a child's first and most powerful influence if they will take the time to step into that role. However, if mom and dad are too busy with their own lives or if the child is too often away from them, there will come a point when someone else will overtake the parents in the role of their child's primary influencer. You can't expect a child not to be affected by outside influences if they spend all day at school, then all afternoon in extracurricular activities and all night in front of the TV, internet or texting friends. If this is your life, you will have to work especially hard to train your child in character. I suspect your quest for character will involve a lot of heart-to-heart talking, prayer and some serious lifestyle choices.
Be aware of what influences your child is exposed to. Even Abraham in the Bible would not let Isaac go down to his relatives to get a wife. He sent his servant to get her. Why? Because Abraham was choosing to live a different life than the one in which he was raised. He didn't want Isaac to go down there and be influenced by the ungodly environment he had left. We, too, need to be aware of what is influencing our children and be vigilant.
Don't just watch out for their real life friends, either. The internet is a powerful influence. So is advertising, gaming, TV and movies. These things can be used as tools, but they also have the power to do great harm. Be aware of what you or your child is inviting into your home through these influencers.
Don't just prohibit evil influences. Make sure your child has a lot of Godly influences. Your kids need to see people who are living lives of Godliness and Character. They need real heroes -- not just the kind Hollywood produces. Some of those heroes can come from good books (we have found a lot of good heroes in classic books written a long time ago, when moral behavior was the norm). Other good places to look are missionary stories, great church leaders in history, historical figures and hopefully, within your own church family. When your children see real character, it will be easier for them to recognize what doesn't measure up. 3. Build Character on purpose. Once upon a time, the whole community had similar values. The church, the school and the neighborhood grocer were all on the same moral page. In those days, the parents didn't have to be as vigilant. If little junior got into trouble, it was pretty much guaranteed that the church, the school AND the grocer would drag junior home by the ear and let his parents know. Those days are gone.
Now, nearly the full weight falls upon the parents to raise children with Godly character. In order to rise to this challenge, we need great grace, we need wisdom that can only come from above, and we need a plan. It isn't going to happen by accident. We will have to vigilantly monitor influences, model character and purposefully train our kids into a behavior that will look very different from what they see everyone else doing.
Look at your day. When can you sit down with your kids and have conversations about what character looks like in the situations they face? When can you read books together that model good character? If your family isn't in the habit of doing this, it won't be easy at first. But if your kids are getting quality time with you and a chance for their own thoughts to be heard, it won't be long before it becomes a regular part of your day. However, you can't shove character down their throats. They will tune you out if you just give them a "character lecture". Instead, you need to lead them into a desire for it. If your kids are teens, then knowing you are really listening to them will help them open their hearts to the idea of developing Godly character, and seeing you work to develop character in yourself will drive the point home.
Next time, I will give you a look at what Character Training looks like in our home. I will also give you a list of some of our favorite character training materials.
Until next time, Have a great day!
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