Every home is different, and what works for us may not be right for you. You will need to find what works in your home with your kids. But just for fun, we'll take a peek into how I teach character in my home.
First of all, we don't just carry our Bibles around on Sunday to look spiritual or because we are in the ministry. We actually try to do what it says. Crazy, I know. But then, we've always been a little odd. So as parents, we are always trying to grow our own character first, before we try to grow our kids'. I have a hard time asking my kids so something I am not willing to do. So it starts with us (the parents).
Then, we don't take every opportunity that crosses our kids' paths. Just because it looks amazing, doesn't mean it's worth the risk to their character. We move a little slower, spend more time together, do a lot of talking and endeavor to follow the leading of the Lord in our decisions as a family. By the time our kids have become teenagers, they understand the benefits and risks themselves. Often, my kids have been more strict about what they felt they should or shouldn't do than we have been. They have learned to want to please God more than they want to be liked or be cool. What my kids are as teenagers started with what we did when they were small.
Finally, we make focused character training a part of our school day. Our first class of the school day is Bible. In that class, we read the Bible together (or a story Bible when the kids are small). Over the years, we have read the through Bible together in different translations and read through story Bibles with the young ones. Sometimes we will also read a good doctrinal book, some church history or missionary stories. Immediately following our Bible studies, we do some character studies. Usually I will either read a character training type book to them or do a study of a particular character trait, and we have a lot of discussion (sometimes threatening to take over the rest of the school day). Over the years, we have accumulated some wonderful resources to read and discuss with our kids (more on that in a bit). In addition to our time together, our older kids have their own personal devotional time before bed while I read Bible stories with our preschooler.
We didn't start out doing this much, of course. As our kids have grown, so has their appetite for the things of God. Now that most of them are older, they need more and naturally gravitate to it. If you haven't been accustomed to doing Bible and character study in your home, then I would advise you to start small and keep things interesting. Your kids won't get much out of it if they're bored out of their skulls. If your kids are older, you might want to start with missionary stories (Missionary Stories with the Millers is a good start. More on that one below. There are also book series on different missionaries available from Rainbow Resource and Christian book stores.) Stories of the lives of missionaries are full of exciting adventure. Your kids won't even realize it, but they are learning character from watching the hard choices the missionaries are making and seeing God move on their behalf. You can always add more study once your kids' appetite has grown.
Tools for Character Training:
Bibles: The best place to learn character, in my humble opinion, is the Bible. But choosing an appropriate Bible for your kids can be a challenge. Here's a short list of some of my favorites for different age groups:
Read with Me Bible: An NIrV Story Bible for Children (Zonderkids) -- This is great as a read aloud for young children. The pictures are amazing and fun, holding young children's attention. The Bible stories are easy for young children to understand. The stories are short, too, so young attention spans can handle them.
The Child's Story Bibleby Catherine F. Vos -- This is a great introduction to the Bible stories when your kids are a little older and ready for a bigger understanding of the Bible, but not necessarily ready to tackle reading the King James Version. This makes a great family read aloud, too. It is useful for giving kids an overview of the characters and stories in the Bible in preparation for reading the Bible themselves.
NIrV version of the Bible -- When your child is ready to read the Bible through the first time (or have it read to them), this is a nice starting place. Our kids started here, then moved on to the NIV, and eventually to the King James Version. By the time they started reading the KJV, they already had a decent working knowledge of the Bible, so it was an easy transition. After that, we let them choose which translation they want to use for their personal devotions.
Character Training Books & Materials:We have used a lot of different materials over the years, but these are the ones we keep coming back to.
Storytime with the Millers(ages 4-10), Wisdom and the Millers: Proverbs for Children (ages 6-12),Prudence and the Millers(ages 7-14),Missionary Stories with the MillersandSchool Days with the Millersby Mildred A. Martin -- Each of these books contains short stories involving the Miller Family. The Millers are of an Amish/Mennonite background with the family values that go with it, and by watching the Miller family learn values, your kids will learn values, too. These stories have been favorites of our family for years. In fact, my older kids know the stories pretty much by heart. We omitted or slightly changed a few of the stories to reflect our own values. For instance, one story involves the oldest daughter learning to be content with her plain Amish clothing. There is nothing wrong with the story, it just reflects beliefs that we don't hold. Kids will sit happily listening to Miller stories.
Created for Work: Practical Insights for Young Men, Boyhood and Beyond: Practical Wisdom for Becoming a Man, andPractical Happiness: A Young Man's Guide to a Contented Life by Bob Schultz. -- Don't let the titles of these 3 books throw you. Although they are marketed to boys, they are wonderful for anyone. I personally think these books should be required reading for all Christians, not just boys or even just children. The practical wisdom in these books is profound, yet simple and understandable. I read these books to both my sons and my daughters, and I learn from them, as well. Each chapter stands alone, so these make great devotionals. I super-highly recommend these!!
Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex & Brett Harris -- This book was written by two teenage brothers who were bothered by how little society expected of them. So being teenagers, they rebelled (I like this kind of rebellion). Instead of hanging out at the mall or playing video games all day, they decided to work hard, do things with excellence and succeed at what they put their hands to. In the process, they sparked a teenage movement against the low expectations society has for teens. This book challenges teens to wake-up and start changing their world.
Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends: How to Fight the Good Fight at Home! by Sarah, Stephen, and Grace Mally -- This is a wonderful book written by 3 siblings ranging in ages from 12 to 22. In it, the brother and sisters give real life examples of how to deal with conflict and issues between siblings. There are suggestions to apply and self-evaluations so your kids can check up on how they are doing. If your kids apply the principles in this book, they are almost guaranteed to have a closer relationship no matter how well they got along before. An added bonus: If your kids learn to work together and get along with each other, they will have learned many of the principles that will help them have strong marriages later. That means peace in your home now, and peace in their homes later. It's a win:win.
Character First! --(www.characterfirsteducation.com) this is an educational company that sells character flyers. Each flyer covers a different character trait (like attentiveness, obedience, gratefulness, orderliness, etc.) with stories, definitions and real-life application. In addition to the flyers, they offer accompanying DVD's, posters and other materials to help you emphasize and train your children in each character trait. These flyers have been very helpful when we want to really focus on one trait at a time. While they don't use scripture verses (it is marketed to the school system, so they can't), they do use scriptural principles. If you want a Bible verse to go along with each trait, you can find a pdf chart that lists the character traits and a verse at www.duggarfamily.com (This chart wasn't made to be compatible, but it is. Neato.)
Special Note: All the books should be available through www.rainbowresource.com and/or amazon.com. No one asked me to write this post. I received nothing and I will receive nothing if you click the links. Just saying.
There you have it. A little peek inside our home and a look at some of our favorite Character Training tools. How do you teach character in your home?
Have a great day,
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