BUILDING CHARACTER THAT BUILDS BEHAVIOR
Have you tried every trick in the books upon books that are available to parents today? Have you exhausted all the advice of parental experts, well-meaning friends and relatives, and school staff? What am I talking about? BEHAVIOR. Whether it’s getting your child to sit still and listen, take turns, have good manners, show respect, listen the first time you speak, share their toys, show appreciation, help others, manage their emotions… Sometimes it feels like we as parents or oversight can run out of options, strategies, and effect.
We had come to such a place this past summer with our 6-year-old son, and I was determined to dedicate the entire summer to getting things back in order. Little did I know, my husband and I were going to get back in order as leaders in our home. One of the things we discovered on the journey was the importance of training and leading our son towards building character, not just good behavior. Prior to this discovery, when we as parents were behavior focused, whether from pressure from ourselves, family and friends, or even the school, we would pull methods out of our tool belts to attempt to quickly remedy behavior needs. After all, we had read enough books and received enough advice to have plenty of behavior curbing methods to choose from. The problem was, these were never lasting, and we always needed another or newer method. What we learned in the journey, was that it wasn’t so much about our methods, but our beliefs as parents and leaders, and how those beliefs influence how we lead our child. While determining the best age appropriate behavior from moment to moment put us on shaky ground in our hearts, being confident in the need for our child to develop character did not. Once we decided to lead our child based on developing character, the guilt over best parenting practices left, the exasperation over less desirable behavior that seemed impossible evaporated, and our joy as parents and leaders returned as each moment became a teachable one—with opportunity to grow in character, for all of us. It also helped our child to have practical understanding instead of a list of do’s and don’ts.
“… We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NRSV).
So, what helped me to see that we needed to focus our motivation on character and less on behavior? It occurred to me that my child needed to have the mindset of an overcomer. He could have the best behavior among all his peers, and receive the best reports from school for intelligence and behavior, but if he did not know how to overcome—fight the good fight of faith—he would be limited in his own internal motivation to lead a fruitful and Godly life. I knew that it was character and perseverance that helped me to get through the difficult and rewarding things in my life, whether it was college, relationships, career, or even leading as a parent; but I wasn’t teaching or allowing my son to have the opportunity to grow in character so that he, too could receive these fruitful rewards. While parenting behavior only helped to curb behaviors to a more tolerant level, leading our child into character motivates him to align with his identity as a child of God and to grow into the mighty man of God he was created to be. Not only has this translated into better behavior, but also we have found that we have a much happier, healthier, empowered child—and family as a whole.
RESOURCES FOR BUILDING CHARACTER THAT BUILDS BEHAVIOR:
Check out this organization called, KIPP, employed by various public schools throughout the nation, that has found the benefits and the necessity of developing and encouraging character in their students alongside their academics, giving educationally underserved communities the empowerment to overcome and “achieve their dreams while making the world a better place”. They give ideas such as picture charts to identify and explain character traits and trackers to track the growth of each character trait.
Kingdom Character Flash Cards (find them here): This set of 10 flash cards speaks directly to a child’s character in Jesus as responsible, honorable, loyal, serving, and more. This is a simple starting point of speaking Kingdom principles directly into a child’s destiny. Children can repeat and memorize the statements that reassure them inside and out that they were created with the Godly goods to make them successful, character-driven individuals and difference makers at every stage of life.
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