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Friday, November 9, 2007

Character

Over the years I’ve been asked how we trained character in our household. Let me share how we went about it:

Without question, the most important thing we did was begin our mornings with devotional and Bible reading, discussions about what we learned, and prayer. These morning moments were so valuable and some of the most precious memories of our homeschooling. They generally lasted from ten minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the topic and how deep we went with the subject matter. On average, they lasted about thirty minutes.

Our family used a variety of devotionals over the years. When the children were very young, we went through Leading Little Ones to God (skipping the activities at the end of the lesson and sometimes doing more than one reading). As they grew, it was more difficult to find a devotional that was appropriate. Many of the issues discussed in the kid devotionals and books were not relevant. So I opted for adult devotionals that were designed for adults young in their faith, such as The Purpose Driven Life. I also chose devotional books designed for teens that were not dumbed down or full of the situational commentary my children may never face, such as A Life God Rewards for Teens.

In addition to these morning moments with mom, where their hearts were molded by God’s truth, my husband read to the boys at night. He chose a variety of books designed to train their character. Further, we spent a lot of time talking, talking, talking and had ongoing discussions about character, choosing well, and how today’s choices affect tomorrow and the years to come. We talked about their futures, what they hoped to do with their lives, and what it really takes to get there. We talked A LOT!

Of course, when they were super young, we did less talking and more behavior modification through rewards and punishments. As they aged, discussions were more and more appropriate. We found it most beneficial to discuss their behavior when they were not misbehaving because they were free from the negative emotions of being in trouble. They could rationally think about the way they should treat one another or become convicted about doing the right thing before temptation struck again.

I feel strongly that the family should be a safe haven for children. A place where they feel loved and accepted. It's easy to fall into patterns where a particular child is "always in trouble." Those patterns need to be broken through positive words and a few days (or even weeks) of overlooking issues and sins. This gives the child a chance to climb out of the pit and begin walking on a new path. Children should feel like they can succeed. They need to believe they can behave well—that they can live up to the standards we and they have—that they are able and it's not too hard. This is most easily accomplished when the people around them truly believe in them, think good thoughts about them, and are looking at their successes, not focusing on their failures. Just as God delights over us with singing, so we should delight over our children—even when they are not displaying the character and maturity we expect to see. A stern and
 unaccepting attitude will not inspire a child. I have a lot more to say about this, but I’ll save it for another blog post.