CHARACTER IS A VERB

CHARACTER IS A VERB

When the kids were younger and had babysitters, I would tell her that if she was unsure about something, she could ask the kids, “What would your mom say/do about that?” Instead of the children feeling like they could get away with whatever the sitter allowed, it made them stop and think about what was right. It strengthened their muscle of walking in discernment and making good choices. I am seeing the fruit of this today in their teen years. Character counts!

GODLY CHARACTER

When my kids were all toddlers, I handed them a treat while we were out on a walk. They eagerly opened it, dropped their package in the middle of the sidewalk, and carried on. I stopped, got down on their level, and pointed to the whole walking path. I wanted them to see how big the path was. I said, “What would this park look like if everyone dropped their trash on the ground? No one would want to come here anymore because it would look like a garbage dump. Where do you think you could put your wrapper?” And I made them think about it. They could put it in the trash, in their pocket, or in the stroller basket. I focused on teaching principles of honor, respect, and kindness and not just the laws and rules. Let’s say they dropped their wrapper on the walk, and I simply instructed them to pick it up. Yet an hour later, they drop their empty water bottle on the ground, and I have to tell them again to pick it up. Only to find two hours later, their backpack finds its way to the floor. This approach teaches them the ‘rules.’ Do not drop a granola wrapper on the trail. Do not drop a water bottle at the park. Do not… Do not… Do not… 18 years is simply not enough time to teach your child about every single possible scenario in which they should not drop or leave behind something. It is an exhausting way to parent and produce children who struggle when they leave home because they find themselves in new situations and don’t know the rules. Instead, try parenting from a place of teaching the why or principles behind it. “Sweetie, when you drop your wrapper on the ground, who did you expect to pick it up?” OR “When you drop things like that, someone else has to clean up your mess. Mommy wants you to take responsibility for it.” That principle carries through when talking about shoes at the door, backpacks being dropped anywhere, dishes being cleared from the table, the garage being taken out, etc. When they are older, they will be able to manage themselves based on character and principles instead of rules.

CHARACTER IS KINGDOM

It is very difficult for a child to release the Kingdom at the store if they are on the floor pitching a fit because you did not buy them a toy. They will have a harder time hearing God’s voice if they haven’t been taught to listen to yours first. You will have a greater challenge getting them to be ‘others’ focused if they have been taught that they are the only ones that matter. Character matters!

REAPING AND SOWING

I am getting better and better at letting my kids feel the aftermath of their choices instead of taking it on myself. The other day, I asked one of the kids to take out the trash, and as we pulled out of the driveway to go to school, I noticed two fully loaded trash bags sitting against the fence. I immediately pulled back into the driveway and put the trash in the bin myself in a bit of a huff. In the process, I stepped in the mud with my new shoes on, and it was not a fun ride to school. I sensed Holy Spirit saying to me, “Why did you do that?” and I began to think of what would happen if I hadn’t put the trash in the bin myself. Oh my – it would have been a disaster. Surely the neighbor dogs would have found the chicken bones, and there would have been trash all over the yard. And gee, the neighbors would probably think less of me if my yard was littered with trash. Then I heard it again, “Why did YOU do that?” and I began to picture my son coming home from school to find trash – the trash HE left out – all over the place and how uncomfortable HE would have been in cleaning it all up. While it would have cost me embarrassment with my neighbors, it would have been a price to pay for my child to learn ownership of completing tasks fully. God has set before us a Kingdom principle of reaping and sowing. Our children need to learn how to reap what they are sowing and not always have a parent who steps in to reap what they have sown. 

HOUSEHOLD RULES

I want you to ponder your children and the way they interact and speak to each other. What does it look like? What do you tolerate? What don’t you tolerate? What are the stated household rules for getting along? What consequences can be expected when they don’t? I am not asking for what you hope for; I am asking what the current reality of your household is. Are your children allowed to hit their siblings? Are they allowed to slam doors? Say, “I hate you”? Are they allowed to pick their friends over their family? Every family has its own rhythm, and no two families will flow alike. Every family will have a different set of core values and different standards which they are governed by. As parents, it is important to be able to see the vision you have for your family. If you don’t know what you are aiming for, you will parent inconsistently, which will produce inconsistent and frustrating results for the whole family.

For me, growing up, there was freedom to hurt and hate each other, which affected me greatly. When I started having my own children, I drew a line in the sand and was determined to teach them that we would be a family that communicated belonging and acceptance. True change doesn’t come from just outward performance; it comes from within. Instead of giving you a list of tools to use to whip your children into shape and force them to love each other (which, by the way, never works), I want to help you come into alignment in your heart first. It is out of that place where real change happens. Spend time pondering and processing this with the Lord. Ask Him to shine His flashlight into your heart (Psalms 139:23) and show you how He sees and feels about the way the siblings treat each other. Oftentimes there is a pang of great guilt for parents because they WANT their children to get along more but simply don’t know how. Confess that to the Lord – that perhaps you have allowed (for whatever reason) your children to be unkind to each. Allow Him to speak to your heart. I am going to provide you with some questions to ponder with Him. I encourage you to get a journal and write down whatever you heard or see Him saying to you. If He is really the head of your household, then give Him room to speak into this situation.

“Father God, would You please show me what makes You happy when you see family?”

“Jesus, would You be willing to reveal to me what in our family needs to come into alignment?”

“Holy Spirit, what does my child really need from me when there is conflict?”

“Father, what area do You want me to focus on with my children?”

“Jesus, if You were here today in the flesh, how would You handle my children?” (You may be surprised by the answer).

God is a perfect Father and knows how to lead your family into greater peace. Holy Spirit is your Helper, and there is nothing but hope ahead to have the family you have dreamed about. Let the Children Fly!

HONEST DEALINGS

Our pastor shared a story about buying a pack of gum for cheap. He went in the next day, and they had raised the price because the clerk had made an error the day before. Our pastor digs in his pocket for the change to make up the difference. The clerk says it was his error and that he owed nothing. His response has never left me. He said, “If I am faithful to give you what is yours, God will be faithful to give me what is mine.” A few days later, I let my son play the video game at the table of our restaurant. When we got in the car, he showed me $7 that he ‘found’ under the video game. I heard our pastor’s words in my mind and immediately turned the car around to have my son explain to the waiter what had happened. My son didn’t do anything wrong, as he clearly thought it was lost money, but not making it right would have made it wrong. The following day I got tangled in L.A. traffic and ended up in a lane that required me to pay $20 for parking. I told the attendant I would just drive through and exit. While doing so, I made a comment that the guy would never even know if we just slipped into a parking spot, but my daughter instantly said, “But Mom, that would be dishonest.” Once again, I heard, “If I am faithful to give you what is yours, God will be faithful to give me what is mine,” and we drove off. Teaching children about character and modeling it ourselves is so valuable to the Father.

PLAYDATES ARE YOUR TRAINING GROUND

Toddlers are not socially aware of cultivating meaningful friendships, but this is a rich season where parents can go after character training so that children are set up for success with peers down the road. I would often set up a playdate with another mom with the intention of paying close attention to how my children interacted with their peers. Did they hit when they didn’t get what they wanted? Did they yank the toy out of someone’s hands? Did they wait patiently when wanting something? Did they interrupt me using the hand technique? Were they a joy to be around? Are they the type of children others would want to invite back or were happy to have us leave? Did they say “Thank you” when given something? OF COURSE, they did not ace all of these areas. They were toddlers full of fleshly desires and selfishness. My goal was never perfection but rather seeing where I needed to parent them. I would take a mental inventory of the areas they needed to grow in, and we would spend the week working on it. I would set up another playdate and test it out. Example: If I saw my child hit another child because they wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. I would address it on the spot, but when we got home, I would teach them how to handle that situation differently in times of peace. We would role-play, I would tell them what I expected (no, no hit), and we would look for ways at home they could apply that teaching with their siblings. I was intentionally teaching them how to be better friends. The heart of this cannot be legalism or performance. Children are going to be foolish, act out, throw fits and be selfish. There has to be grace for their development. But I was always on the lookout for ways they could increase their capacity in an area and go after it through connection and joy. 90% of my parenting in the toddler years was going after things in the time of peace and setting them up for success instead of constantly reacting to their negative behavior. Some of the main focus points for toddlers are: learning to wait patiently for something that they want, saying “please and thank you,” understanding right/wrong, knowing sowing/reaping (consequences), using manners (kind words), and using their words (not strength), respecting the word NO, listening and obeying right away, practicing gentleness, having self-control, and being content by themselves at times.

**My eBooklet Character Counts gives you oodles of creative activities to do with young children to instill character. You do not have to do this all in one day but rather have a mental awareness that between today and the time they enter formal school, they should have the character to play well with their peers. Order your copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

FULLY AND COMPLETELY

Empowering children to obey fully and completely the first time (Deuteronomy 28:1). Expose your child to horses, whether that be taking a field trip to a horse farm, simply pulling off the side of the road near one, getting a video from the library, or finding them on the Internet. They are so beautiful and powerful. Talk about how a horse is powerful on their own, but when the bridle is in its mouth, they are trained to obey the rider right away. All the rider needs to do is gently move the reigns to the left or right, and the horse automatically goes in that direction. They are not stubborn or demanding of their own way; they simply follow the rider’s commands. Explain to your child that God wants us to respond this way to His instructions. He doesn’t just want us to obey in the end but wants us to do so fully and completely right away.

In the days ahead, when you need your child to follow your instructions, remind them of the character of a horse. Often when my children were younger and not following the instructions I had given them, I would simply say, “Mama needs you to be a horse right now,” and they all knew that meant they were behaving in a way that was the opposite of what I had instructed. It was an excellent tool for when we were in public as it spared them the embarrassment of being called out in front of others.

DON’T/DO

This is a great way to teach and train young children. When you need to instruct/correct them, instead of staying where you are and calling out to them, STOP what you are doing, go to them, and get down on their level. Place your hands out and tell them to put their hands on yours. You are not forcing them, grabbing their hands, or controlling them. You are giving them the command (as many times as it takes) to put their hands on yours. Then you instruct them to look into your eyes. If they remove their hands or lose eye contact, in a gentle but firm voice, instruct them to put their hands/eyes back on you. When they have achieved that, you give them your short command of what you want. “Mommy wants you to come to the table,” “Mommy wants you to put your clothes away,” “Mommy wants you to pick up your toy.” It is important that they follow up with a “Yes/Okay, Mom.” The purpose for that is when kids come into agreement by verbally saying “Yes/Okay,” something happens in their brain where they accept ownership. The key to using this tool is to speak to them in a gentle but firm way. It does not work well when the parent is angry or controlling, nor does it work well when the parent caves if the child does not respond right away. Few people enjoy being disrespected, and it can feel very frustrating when children ignore us. If, as the parent, you feel frustrated at their lack of listening, I encourage you all the more to go after this. Good character does not come with age; it comes with intentional parenting. Stay in the game and help your child overcome their weakness. Give them tools to grow in their capacity. This requires extra effort from you upfront, but you will reap the JOY of a child who responds to your voice.

CHARACTER MATTERS

Character matters because it matters to God. Children without character can’t sustain the gifts and assignments God wants to give them. It is much easier, by God’s design, to learn character IN childhood from parents who love and care for them. In this eBooklet, I will walk you through defining godly character (not legalism) and how to cultivate a lifestyle of character. Additionally, I will provide you with fun, creative activities to teach your children.

Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly