Leading Our Children In Good Character
It would make life so much easier if our children came with an ingrained sense of high moral character and they didn’t need to be taught right from wrong. They wouldn’t need a system of discipline. They wouldn’t need a great example to follow. They would just come out ready to face the world and all of its draws and issues. BUT…that is not the case. Our kids don’t come with any previously ingrained ideas of what they should or shouldn’t do. Besides the need to eat, cry, and poop, they really don’t know how to do anything until we teach them.
Children will learn from everything and everyone! There is nothing that is said or done in front of our kids that doesn’t make an impression. KIDS. ARE. SPONGES. So, every parent has to make a choice and answer the question, “Do I want to be intentional and teach good character, or do I want to just let things happen as they happen?” Just like the old saying goes, “by not making a choice, you have made a choice.” We need to be intentional. You don’t need someone outside your circle of beliefs and principles teaching your children what their character should look like or teaching them a sense of right and wrong which may or may not agree with your views and beliefs.
Most experts will tell you to praise your children when they do something right, or when they are especially good. Whether it is words of praise, hugs, high-five, a written letter, or rewards, they will tell us that a praise system will encourage our kids to do the positive things more than punishment for mistakes and misbehaving. This may be true, but what really works better than anything else is to model good character. If you want your children to mature into young men and women of integrity, with high moral character you need to be the model. “Do as I say, not as I do” does not work.
Just about every person you ask would have some things that are the same as things you have on the Good Character list, and some things may be different. So, I’m going to look at a couple of things on my list of what demonstrates good character.
Honesty—I think just about everyone can agree that honesty is high on the list for a person to have good character. So, how can we demonstrate honesty to our children?
1. Tell your kids the truth. This may seem like a no-brainer, but too often it seems like situations will come up where it’s easy to just tell “a little white lie” to our kids. This can not be overstated in how harmful lying can be to our kid’s character. No matter what we tell them to do, children will usually follow the level of honesty that they see modelled.
2. Tell each other the truth. Again, this is an area that children will watch closely, and if they see their parents being dishonest with their peers and each other, then being dishonest with other children and later with adults will become the norm.
Integrity—Anytime I have had the opportunity to interview people for jobs, I always asked, “What is your definition of integrity?” I discovered that a surprisingly large percentage of people cannot properly define integrity. Most people will say that it means being honest, but integrity goes far beyond simply telling the truth. Very simply put, integrity speaks to how I act, think, and speak when no one else is around. This is one of the most important life lessons we can teach your children.
Make Mistakes—This part is easy…we already do it. Remember, there are no perfect parents. We do the best we can and hopefully learn from our mistakes. I really believe that allowing our children to see us make mistakes and see us respond correctly to those mistakes, will teach them how they should respond to their own mistakes.
Hiding our mistakes will teach our kids to believe that it is not ok to make mistakes, and they won’t know how to respond when they fail.
1. When you make a mistake or fail at something (whether it’s breaking something, acting impatient or angry, failing at a project, etc.), actually point it out to your child. Show them how you failed, and then explain what you will do about it. This will help them know how react to and how to move on from mistakes and failures.
2. Encourage your child when he/she does something wrong. Explain the consequences, explain how they could have done differently, and encourage them to do better next time.
Remember, mistakes or failures are not final and do not mean that the world is ending because you or they made a mistake.
Ultimately, you have to decide what type of faith, principles, and character you want your children to learn. I can’t tell you what to believe in your home any more than you can in mine. So, each of us needs to make an intentional plan of how we will lead our families, by modelling, to the level of character that we expect in our homes.