By Marilyn Boyer
Character has been said to be doing right, no matter what the cost or consequences, and whether or not anyone is looking. In our world today, becoming a person of character is often a forgotten concept. People strive to entertain themselves with TV, X-Box, or sports – often at the expense of those around us.
If you learn to raise kids whose lives reflect the character of God, they will shine as lights in the dark society in which we live. God will make opportunities for them that others don’t have because He honors His principles in the lives of His children, and He even honors His principles when those who aren’t Christians live by His truth.
God’s way is contrary to our natural desires. If we lose our lives in serving others and teach our children to do so also, God will reward us immensely. We taught our kids a little song we once heard called Do Right.
To grow kids of character, you must know what character is and communicate it to your kids. Character is the very attribute God possesses. Our job is to glorify God, to learn to be more like Jesus. We must learn what He is like, then teach it to our kids in a way they can understand, and help them make it a living part of their lives. It doesn’t come naturally, so you can’t just expect your kids to develop character qualities in their lives without cultivating it in them.
As a very young mom, I attended a Sunday school class that I will forever be thankful for. It was taught by a man named Larry Coy who taught us that the Bible has practical life answers. As I sat there, quite like a sponge, absorbing his wisdom, I then sought to find a way to teach it to my kids.
I recently finished writing a book about the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, For You They Signed. It will be published soon. My purpose in writing it was to teach my kids and others the sacrifices these men made on our behalf and also what they believed about Jesus Christ. Some gave doctrinal statements in their last wills so their children and posterity would know what they believed. I felt like I was on a treasure hunt. It was fascinating.
I was struck by the overwhelming evidence of character in their lives. It was so well documented and so exemplified in their lives that I couldn’t ignore it. God led me to change. Ultimately, my goal was to inspire children to attempt great things for God, and in so doing, impact their culture and become a tool in God’s hand to help America return to her godly roots. It contains a year’s worth of study that families can use in devotion time to learn character and Scripture together, as well as history.
These men who founded our country strove to become men of character, and placed an extremely high value on teaching it to their children and those under their charge.
Thomas Jefferson, a signer from Virginia, established the Bible as the primary book for use in Washington City schools when he was president. Even those founders not Christian, like Jefferson, had a high respect for God’s ways and principles, were raised by them, and thought it preposterous that anyone would not want his children raised by the teachings of Jesus Christ.
This was the mindset in our country. People were trained to look to the Bible as having answers for every need in life. I believe it still does, and we are responsible to communicate that to our children and guide them in digging out those practical answers to life.
It’s not too late. We as home educators have the awesome opportunity and duty to change the tide and raise up a generation of godly leaders who are willing to let God reign in their hearts and lives and be used of God to accomplish His mighty purposes in our land.
Let us heed the warning Noah Webster gave to us, “The education of youth should be watched with the most scrupulous attention…It is much easier to introduce an effectual system than to correct by penal statues the ill effects of a bad system. The education of youth lays the foundation on which both law and gospel rest for success.”
There was recently an international survey done which found American elementary students to be above average, junior high students AT average, and high school students WELL BELOW average. The longer students remain in American schools, the less they seem to know. America now ranks 65 of 200 in literacy. Some third world nations rank higher.
Just a few decades ago, America had one of the highest literacy rates. It’s been in my lifetime. The year I entered first grade was the year the Bible was removed from public schools. Studies clearly show a dramatic decline from that time on. Recently, 700,000 American high school graduating seniors couldn’t read their own diplomas. (Four Centuries of American Education, Barton)
Pick up a blue-backed speller or New England Primer sometime and see what school kids were taught for decades in our country. They learned the Ten Commandments, prayer and praises to God, rhymes about the Bible to learn letters, an acrostic of Bible verses to learn the alphabet, a catechism about Jesus Christ, sin, and the doctrine of salvation.
Okay, so what can we do? I will share with you some of the things we’ve found helpful in teaching our 14 kids how to internalize the character of our Savior.
-Teach them the character qualities set forth in the Bible. I Corinthians 10:11 tells us that God wrote about the lives of people in the Bible so that we might learn from their example, positive or negative. Point out admirable qualities in the men and women of the Bible and show how God blessed them because of it, or corrected them, as the case may be. We found Character Sketches by IBLP.org to be a very valuable tool in teaching this, although you can do it just from the Bible or even Bible story books.
-Boys can be taught the character of godly Bible men and girls of godly Bible women – Bible heroes. Perhaps you may want to incorporate this into their room décor or make a special book about it or wall hanging.
-Bible Men Chart – We used this project to teach our kids men in the Bible who demonstrated character qualities fro the purpose of learning the qualities ourselves. These are now available as HEROES OF THE FAITH FLASHCARDS
-Job 12:7-8, as well as Proverbs 30, tells us that God has also given us animals, which display these same qualities in their lives, as a part of God’s wonderful design. Character Sketches was a valuable tool for teach this. Children seem to have an attraction to animals at an early age, so this is a great way to introduce character qualities. Again, all sorts of visual aids can be worked up to make it more interesting. Proverbs 16:21 says, “A wise teacher makes learning a joy.”
-Point out character qualities in other people your child comes in contact with. For example, “Wasn’t Mrs. Smith kind to give you a glass of lemonade?”
-A character quality chart may be useful. We had a list of character qualities we were learning and a space to paste stars or stickers at the end of the day. We reviewed their day to see which qualities they had shown forth that day. This is a great time to talk over the events of the day and help the child be aware that God is working in his life.
-Character qualities can be mentioned throughout the day as well. For example, “Johnny is learning to be responsible by putting his clothes in the hamper,” or “That was a very orderly thing to do.”
-We often had a character quality of the month. We would learn the definition (can’t learn to demonstrate it if they don’t understand it) and a verse to go along with it. We then developed projects to help solidify it in their lives and to put it into practice. For example, Orderliness: room check, drawer check, containers with pictures for toys. Kindness (especially toward a sibling they were in conflict with): Plan a special surprise, cupcake, etc., where treasure is, there their heart will be also. Availability: helping elderly neighbor by raking his leaves, talking to him if lonely. Responsibility: feeding the birds or dog.
Remember, every negative character quality in your life or your child’s life is just a positive character quality misused. Your job is to direct and steer your child in the proper direction, using God’s Word as your guide.