“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he grows old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
“Train.” It’s an interesting word… because it can be interpreted so many ways. To some it can mean discipline. To others it can mean to educate, but I believe it is meant to mean a good mix of both with a slant towards educating. Too often we think of training as punishing undesirable behavior. However, training for a sport means we practice good habits until they become natural to us. We research the best methods for success and we re-run those methods over and over to get across that finish line first. When we fail, we analyse what went wrong. If we can put so much effort into training for things like sports, why aren’t we, as parents, putting in all the work for our children? Training our children the way they should go is more comprehensive then having them sit in a corner for a designated length of time.
We should be applying the same principles to train up our children, so they can succeed at the most valuable race they will ever make: the future that God has planned for them. Three words will get you started on the right path:
Practice, practice, practice.
Practice trouble areas. Here’s a common example. How many times have you felt helpless just trying to get the kids out the door in the morning? Simple disobediences’ can lead to quick tempers and just a bad start to the day. So… practice it. (Never in the morning! ) Call a family meeting, pick a time and explain how “disobedience at the door” affects everyone. Have them practice getting coats on, sitting quietly, or whatever else you want to see in the morning routine. Make it fun, grab a stop watch and time the family. By practicing trouble areas, without the “time crunch busy go-go” morning environment, you will start to see… better mornings out the door! If a certain child displays selfishness, have him or her practice showing love and selflessness by thinking of 3 things they can do to add value to those around him. Praise character as it increases, and acknowledge even the smallest change of heart as it becomes evident. This is a smart way to walk out the daily faith commanded in Deuteronomy 6.
Link everything to character. Instead of asking a child to put away their toys, ask them to show diligence to complete their task. Don’t just talk about not being late; instead explain how being punctual demonstrates respect. If you’re going to have a chart and put stickers on it when a certain habit is established, make sure to reward the character not the habit. For example, “You did a great job of making your bed, and brushing your teeth this week!” This could be better explained by adding “You showed respect for our home by getting your responsibilities done on time!”
Here is a link that lists character traits (and their opposites) along with a Biblical definition and Bible verse for each. Spend time focusing on a different attribute each month, or post it on the fridge and consult it when you see a particular weakness that needs addressing.
Teach your children character now, and it will equip them for success in their own race.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
Got a great idea to teach character? Please comment and pass it on!