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Character Over Performance

Years ago when I began playing golf, I was fascinated with how far a golf ball can fly. Being young and limber at the time, my drives were pretty far – I just wasn’t always certain where they would end up! Soon after picking up the sport, I played golf with a man named Bill, who was in his seventies. On the first tee I outdrove him by forty yards. I thought to myself, “This isn’t even going to be close.”

And it wasn’t. Bill beat me by ten strokes!

This older gentleman could not only hit the ball 150 yards, but it was always right down the middle. That day I learned an important truth every golfer eventually discovers: direction is more important than distance.

It’s true in golf, in flying, and in life.

A lot of well-meaning moms and dads spend a great deal of time and effort molding their children’s outward behavior. It’s only natural: we care about what our kids do. But think about the reality, that through repetition or intimidation, almost any creature can be taught to perform on cue – children, dogs, even circus fleas.

But as your children grow older and you are with them less and less, you learn the important truth every parent must eventually discover: beliefs are more important than behavior.

Let me explain. If you force a child to go to church just because it’s the right thing to do – and if you don’t spend time encouraging that child to come to a personal faith in God along the way – you can bet your last dollar that as soon as that kid is out from under your roof, she’ll spend Sunday morning in bed or at brunch or curled up on the sofa with a book.

A child who says or does something merely because of a parent’s expectation will quit doing it the minute there’s no longer any external pressure to conform. It’s a short-lived parental victory if you simply teach your kids what to do, but neglect to instruct them in the why. If they don’t see any reason, significance, or benefit in doing what you’ve taught them, they’ll stop the minute they are on their own.

Motivation matters.

Once again, parents, it all comes back to you. If you have a genuine faith and are a model of Christlike character, it’s quite likely your kids will imitate you. Your core values will help shape your kids’ beliefs, and behavior is an outgrowth of belief In other words, who you are determines what choices you makes and how you live.

Case in point: NFL quarterback Tim Tebow who is a role model for millions. He and his two older brothers are all very athletic and highly competitive. Successful sons, wouldn’t you think? Kids who make their parents proud.

But their parents always stressed character over performance.

In an effort to keep them from bragging about their sports accomplishments, these young men were not allowed to bring up in conversations to people what they had achieved on the field. Their parents taught them Proverbs 27:2: “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.”

While they celebrated touchdowns and victories in their household, those outward actions took a backseat to inner qualities.

“We were given a dollar if someone complimented us on our character to Mom or Dad,” Tim Tebow says. “We quickly became focused on those matters – such as character and humility – rather than on trying to impress someone with out exploits on or off the field.”

It’s never too early to emphasize character. Parents would be wise to take a page out of Mr. and Mrs. Tebow’s playbook. Character counts in the Tebow household. In fact, it even paid!

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The Tebow family’s reward system for developing character goals really works, says FaithGateway’s Jaime Guthals. Raising two boys, whenever someone compliments them on their character–whether it’s a coach, a teacher, or babysitter–we give them a dollar to spend or save. The kids love the surprise element when we hand them the reward and simply say, “so and so complimented your character today… we’re so proud of you for who you are, not for what you do.”

Your Turn

How do you emphasize character over performance in your home? Share your tips and stories with us in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you!

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