Good kids are a product of the real goal of parenting: mature character. When children grow up with mature character, they are able to take their place as adults in the world and function properly in all areas of life. Raising kids with character is the main goal of child rearing.
But what is character?
We view character as the structures and abilities within ourselves that make up how we operate in life. In other words, character is the sum of our abilities to deal with life as God designed us to.
Growing your child’s character always involves two elements: development, or training through experience and practice, and internalizing, or taking those experiences inside to become a part of his personality.
Teaching transfers information from one to another. But teaching alone doesn’t make the child “own”, or take responsibility for, the information. The Bible mentions two types of “knowing”: we are to “know” (or understand) the truth to be free (John 8:32), and Adam “knew” (or experienced in an intimate personal way) Eve (Genesis 4:1 KJV).
Your child needs not only to understand relationship, responsibility, and goal setting, but also to experience these realities in an intimate, personal way.
The operative word for this part of character development is experience. The Bible itself uses the word experience to explain character (Romans 5:4 KJV). In other words, we grow from what we engage in. For example, you can’t learn how to ride a bicycle from just reading a book: you have to get on a bike. In the same way, character parenting provides a wealth of experiences that help the child learn about realities such as relationship, responsibility and forgiveness.
Your child needs to be actively engaged in maturing at all stages of life. He starts out a mistrustful, irresponsible, self-centered being – a beginner in character. And as you give him character-training experiences over time, his abilities to connect, take responsibility, and give to others gradually increase and expand.
In fact, if the process goes as it was designed, your child will stay on the journey of character growth long after he has left home, all the way through life.
Many parents have difficulty with this concept. Although we have lots of evidence to prove otherwise, we still think that if we tell kids to do the right thing enough times, they’ll turn around to do it!
While it’s important to teach your child about loving and being loved, and about taking responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:20-25), information is never enough. Your child needs many, many experiences in which he sees reality and adapts to it, or suffers the consequences of ignoring it.
When you understand and interact with your child on a character level, you will quickly find that what seems to be a problem isn’t really the problem. Character has to do with the way the child sees and acts in the world.
You can’t se or touch character; to use computer technology, it is being hard-wired inside your child’s brain. What you can see is how he responds to life.
Your child’s behavior, attitudes, and emotions serve as an indicator light about character issues. By observing, you will know better how to provide growth experiences tailored to help your child mature and develop in a particular area.
Jesus taught this principle in terms of fruits:
Every good tree bears fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit – Matthew 7:17
Just as you can understand the nature of the tree from its fruit, you can understand the character of your child from her actions. Then, if a problem arises, you deal with the root of the issue, not its symptom.
“Fruit” problems – such as biting, throwing tantrums, and sulking – can be alarming, demanding, and frustrating. And you certainly need to set limits with and consequences on the behaviors themselves.
But don’t stop there.
Effective parents look for what a symptom is showing them about their child’s struggle to grow up, and they deal with helping her on that level.
When you purpose to raise kids with character, you will equip your son or daughter to accept life’s responsibilities, grow from its challenges and freely and fully explore all that it has to offer.
Have you ever mapped out your parenting goals? Raising kids with character takes a combination of multiple factors. What are some of the values you try to instill in your children?