Episode 12: Practical Advice for Christian Character Training
By: Jamie Gaddy
Character Training is an absolutely vital part of parenting our children. Great character doesn’t just happen, it’s intentionally built and encouraged. As parents, we all desire to teach and train our children in the way they should go… but that takes work. REAL WORK.
Why Character Train?
Parents, our task is not easy… in fact, it’s the biggest most difficult task we’ll ever tackle. We’ve been given these children, as a direct blessing from God. But with that huge blessing, we are responsible to invest in them. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
This training task is also something that we need to be proactive with. We can’t train our children well when we only teach them in a heated reactionary moment. Training must be proactive and not reactive. The best lessons are intentionally taught with an eye toward building life-long habits. These heart lessons, rooted and grounded in a solid Biblical foundation and brought to fruition with a personal faith are what give our children the strength of character in the tough times. Which is an example of just how important reaching the heart of our child is – Proverbs 4:23 says to “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.”
How Does Character Training Make a Difference?
I hate to be Captain Obvious, but character training builds good character in our children. The second part of Proverbs 22:6 gives us hope. It says, “when he is old he will not depart from it.” Now, don’t get me wrong… this isn’t a guarantee, but a principle of investment. Whether or not our children do “stick with it” when they are old is on them, but whether or not we teach and train them is on us. We must be intentional in our efforts because half-hearted attempts just won’t cut it. Parents must be the ones who in their child training efforts, teach consistency by example. And I completely get that it’s tough. I have six kids and consistency means getting up off the couch or out from under that comfy blanket where you’ve been reading and go deal with a situation with a calm and patient attitude ready to teach and train them! Shew… definitely not easy.
Yet, we have to look beyond the momentary inconvenience and realize that this training is building good habits for life… it’s an eternal investment! Not to mention the fact that character training, if done intentionally, gives you a game plan for guiding your child’s character. It can actually relieve frustration with your child’s wrong behavior. Why? Because you can address the undesirable behavior with a positive lesson on the right character trait he/she should be having. We can begin dealing with life lessons instead of referees correcting problems.
How to Start Character Training?
I think I’ve said this several times already, but intentional consistency is the key! I guess I just can’t say that enough! If we try to teach a lesson and then the next time they act out and we don’t reinforce that lesson, we’ve lost a teachable moment and have actually reinforced the wrong character trait. So, yes, that inconvenient aspect of staying consistent is VITAL.
When you get down to the nitty-gritty and are ready to create a game plan for your character training method, you’ll want to work through a few steps. Trust me, doing this will really help you be intentional and consistent.
- Assess Your Situation
Just like we’ve learned in homeschooling, we need to know “about” our children before we can teach them well. The same in this situation. Take some time to do some recon. Watch and take notes on your child’s behavior for at least a week. When you do this you’ll track the good and the bad and also details about when, where, and who are involved in the behavior moments you record.
- Create a Game Plan
Grab your notes and a cup of coffee and go somewhere quiet. I remember taking some time to pray before I started on this. Why? Because what you are doing isn’t something trivial, it’s so important to raising children that can go on to be a blessing. Pray, review your notes and ask God to help you look for root causes and connections between your child’s behavior and the root character trait needs work. Make a 3 columned list detailing the negative behaviors that need to be corrected, the non-existent character traits that need to be taught, and the good behaviors that need to be built.
Then I like to brainstorm ways or lessons that will reach the heart of the child and motivate them to change. Focus on the positive when teaching the lesson and correcting the negative behavior. Remember this – a negative behavior is often a misused positive character trait. Just like a very honest person can tend to be brutal or harsh, remember that at the heart of it is a good character but children need to be taught how to keep that character in check.
I also take time to name and define each character that I feel needs addressed. I usually do this on the 3 columned chart. So, if I have time I’ll create a quick guide for character lessons customized for each child. That tool really helps when you are in the middle of a heated situation. You can grab your chart and use it to bring objectivity to a touchy moment.
- Implement Your Training
Remember again, the source of the issue is the heart. Pray and seek to train them using God’s word. Proverbs 16:23 says, “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.” It starts in the heart.
Focus on one at a time. It really is a good idea to keep things simple. Don’t try to cover your entire game plan in a week. Building good habits with character training takes time. Focus on one character until you see fruit. That may take a week or maybe two!
Create daily lessons. Yes, this is so beneficial. Use that chart you created as a guideline for working systematically through the character qualities that you want to work on. This is perfect for a morning quiet time or morning basket. Remember to use positive examples and stories to illustrate your point as well as negative examples and the natural consequences that follow.
Build Your Lessons.
- Introduce the character and give the meaning. Proverbs 14:6b “Knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth” Always be sure to give the meaning when teaching a concept.
- Involve the senses. It is a proven fact that humans learn best when additional senses are used.
- Use pictures, stories, dramatized audio, or acting lessons out. Again using a variety of methods to teach your lessons can make a huge difference.
- Be observant. Look for the good. Catch your child doing something great and praise and encourage them to continue that behavior.
- Keep on! Don’t give up when you have a difficult day. Because I can promise you will see tough times before you see a good character take root.
Remember, this is something that as parents, we are in for the long haul. Character training isn’t something that is “one and done.” Parents continue teaching and training both through lessons and by example throughout their child’s life. It’s something amazing that you’ve determined you’ll do. You’re investing in the future, one character lesson at a time!
About the Series
Where'd my instruction manual go??? I know we've all wondered that about parenting and homeschooling! Join us as we chat about the big stuff and everything in-between! Helping homeschoolers with practical teaching tips to find all they need to Homeschool and Love it!!