At our CedarCreek MOMentum meeting this week we talked about character and what we really need to teach our children. Some aspects of parenting are pretty intuitive: teaching your children to walk, ride a bike, do the dishes, or drive a car. But what exactly do you need to teach them so that they grow up with incredible character, modeled in the image of God’s character?
It was about a year ago I started asking myself this question: What EXACTLY am I supposed to be teaching my children? I knew I wanted to honor God and really train my children with His foundational truths. But I didn’t really know what that looked like or where to start.
Fast forward a few months and I attended the Hearts at Home conference. There a speaker made reference to a chart on character qualities. It peaked my interest and I made a note to look it up when I got home. And when I did…wow! It was so practical and straightforward. It summarized all that I hoped to teach my children. I could imagine working on them one a time and really meditating over the corresponding verses. And then I knew…we had to talk about this at MOMentum!
The content for our meeting was compiled by four moms at various ages and stages with our children who also serve on the MOMentum Leadership Team. As we worked on this content around the table at Panera we agreed on two big points that we wanted to bathe this whole thing in:
- For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23 When was the last time you had to teach your child to throw a fit, hit a sibling, act selfishly, lie to hid a mistake, disobey? The list goes on and on. And since our kids need no help learning to sin (and neither does mom for that matter), it’s our role then as mothers to shape their hearts in the other direction.
- And secondly, your role as mom matters at every stage so it’s never too late to start or too early. You can start today right where you are, even if your kids are grown. No guilt allowed, just begin where you are.
What is character anyway?
- Character as defined by Webster’s dictionary is “…the complex mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation, as in the character of the American people.”
- If you are a Christ-follower, the process of developing character and understanding the components of Godly character ultimately teaches us about God’s true character.
So here is “The Chart”. On it you’ll find the quality (desirable), its opposite (undesirable), a one sentence definition, and then the verse that supports the quality. It’s so nice and organized I can hardly stand it!
How to use the Character Qualities Chart:
- Memorize of each verse and trait as a family over a very long period of time. Don’t move on to the next quality until the entire family has mastered the trait.
- Pick a trait for your family to focus on each month. Spend the month learning about it and “catching” each other demonstrating the trait.
- Develop a set of family values based on a smaller number (say 5 to 8) that mean the most to you.
- During discipline or teachable moments, identify what’s going on in their hearts because of their actions as it lines up with a character trait. Identify the Bible verse reference that shares the truth about what is going on.
- Pick a few words that represent each child. Frame the words and hang where they will be seen (and prayed for) often.
As we dove deeper into this, some ideas also began to emerge about not only how to use this tool, but also about how to introduce the traits over the process of parenting (what we are doing) and the age of our kids (what they are ready for and need to do). For example, if you have a preschooler you probably aren’t going to start with punctuality, so the age and stage of your kids does matter as to when you specifically introduce certain qualities as well as how we intentionally teach them.
We’re identifying these stages as the What-Why-How-Who Ages. Can you relate when you think about the age of your children?
It can’t all be caught in a neat and tidy chart, the lines are blurry and the transitions can be tough, but knowing this information can be a powerful way to be parent with intention, no matter what stage you are in.
And to really get a feel for this age and stage concept, let’s roll a few of these traits through each age and stage:
To wrap things up:
In their book, How to Raise Totally Awesome Kids (doesn’t that just sound like a completely 1980’s book title?), Dr. Chuck Borsellino and his wife Jenni write, “Teach by example. Model what you desire. For our children to develop character and integrity, they must first see the integrity of our character.”
Remember, at all stages good character is caught more than it is taught. That means, as you live out Godly character (in other words, the qualities listed in this chart) before your kids, they’ll naturally get it more than if you just tell them what it’s supposed to look like, and they’ll also come to know and understand the character of God.
If you’re like me, when you look at this chart on the heels of thinking about your children’s character and how these are the very characteristics Jesus modeled, you’re probably thinking that there might be a few of these qualities that you could work on yourself.
We completely agree! Don’t you just love Sally Clarkson’s quote on this? “You must be a gardener of your own soul, and then a gardener of your children’s soul. You can’t pass on what you’re not living.”
We hope you’ll come up with a lot of creative ways to use this chart and then post your ideas in our comments or on our Facebook page. The best thing about our community of moms is the all access pass to each other’s wisdom and support. We are not going to be perfect moms, or perfect people, but we are going to be committed towards intentionally developing the character of our kids. Who’s with me?
Click here for the Character Quality Printable Chart and Individual Qualities, Definitions, and Verses.
Alison is the director of MOMentum, wife to Greg, and mom to two amazing girls ages 6 and 3. She’s letting God do a mighty work on her own character in an effort to pass it on.
CedarCreek MOMentum exists to connect mothers in all seasons by encouraging and supporting them, while guiding their hearts toward Christ.
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