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!
CHARACTER IS A VERB
My daughter was having a tough time with her brother thinking it was funny to put his toe right up against the doorway to her room. He never went in but was taunting her, and she was biting the bait. She came to me exasperated. Holy Spirit had me teach her that he was getting a thrill out of her reaction. He doesn’t care about going into her room; he loves the rise it is causing her. It is making him feel powerful (of course, none of this was appropriate on his end), but this is an annoying thing about people kids must learn to overcome. I told her that every time she freaks out, it was like she was giving him chocolate. Of course, he would want more. But when we take the ‘fun’ out of our reaction, it is like handing him a candy bar made of broccoli. Ah, no thanks! I encouraged her to go up and ignore him, blow it off, and soon enough, it won’t be fun for him anymore. She invited him in, and then he ran away. He never wanted to enter; he wanted to bug her! When my kids find themselves in that situation again, I simply say, “Give them a broccoli bar.”
This lesson was taken from our Character Counts SOAR parenting magazine. If you are interested in more activities, you can purchase your digital copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly
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.
Sibling conflict is God’s training ground. Use it for their good.
As a mom of four, I had my grocery trips down to a science. I had my toddler in the front, my baby in the carrier of the cart, and my four-year-old twins holding onto each side of the cart. There was peace and joy when we went to the store. Until the day they all outgrew their places, and they were running around playing tag while I attempted to shop. I rationalized that they were fine because they were being joyful, but the joy broke out into the next aisle, where they zoomed up and down the rows of food. Finally, they rounded the corner and nearly plowed over an elderly lady with a walker! I realized my previous system was no longer effective. I had to go home and call another family meeting where I taught them what going to the store looked like in this new stage. This is the process of building them with age-appropriate character throughout their childhood years.
Has your child ever come home from school, youth group, or a friend’s house and declared that their peers do not like them? It is hard to hear, isn’t it? Let me empower you on how to help your child walk through it. It is brutal to feel like you don’t belong because God created us with wiring TO belong. Belonging was one of the things stolen in the Garden. When a child experiences belonging, they start becoming who they are called to be. When a child experiences a lack of acceptance, they shrink back and partner with timidity and smallness, which robs those around them of who they were created to be. There are reasons why children experience a lack of belonging with their peers. Sometimes they do not fit in because there is something within them that needs to be matured or revealed. Humility and intentional parenting are required to help them overcome. Let me give you an example.
Years ago, I was a nanny for one of the wealthiest families in Minnesota. The six-year-old girl loved opening soda cans and pouring out all of the sweet sugar. The bees loved it too. The family’s full-time caretaker asked her many times to please stop. She looked at him and said, “My name is Anna ___. I can do whatever I want.” Her parents almost lost two employees that day. My first thought was, “How sad that where your parents failed to teach you, your peers will.” That attitude won’t fly with peers; they could care less about how much money your daddy has or how spoiled you have been at home. You can’t do whatever you want just because you feel like it and have been falsely empowered to do so at home. In this case, the response from peers, while it wouldn’t feel good, is a gift to help you see where you may need to come into greater maturity. One of my goals in parenting has been to accurately discern my child’s weaknesses and help empower them with tools for success and growth so that they don’t have to learn it the hard way through the rejection of peers. But there are times when nothing about the child warrants pushback from peers, but it happens anyway. I want to open your view of what is happening. Satan hates unity. There is strength in numbers, and his goal is to separate and devour. When there is love and unity among us, God’s Kingdom advances. There is an assignment against your child in this area specifically, and none of them are exempt from having to walk through this. Something happens, say three girls are hanging out and one girl feels left out of the conversation, which feels uncomfortable, but then the enemy comes and whispers, “You are all alone. No one likes you,” and it may FEEL true at that moment. A child partners with it, and now the lie is a part of their belief system.
Another example is that a child makes a foolish comment that lacks maturity (which happens all the time and should be expected of a child who has not yet become a full adult), and the receiver owns the comment as truth. They must be taught that not all comments, even from the popular kids, are true and accurate. Another example might be when the teacher calls on a student, and they don’t know the answer. This is common and normal in a classroom setting where everyone is learning and growing. The child feels embarrassed, and the enemy whispers shame and smears their intelligence with lies. They then shrink back in shame with their peers. When a child is partnering with shame and rejection as their identity, other children can feel it, even if their minds don’t understand it. It is like they have a sign on their back that says, “I am rejected.” Sometimes when a child reports over and over how others are treating them, it is wise to ask Jesus to reveal what lies they are believing about themselves (and therefore projecting). The next time your child declares no one likes them, ask Jesus to show you if this is a lack of character on their part that requires additional parenting help or if it is an attack of the enemy on their identity.
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.
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.
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.
I know this post will shock a few of you, but I will say it anyway. WE WANT TO BREAK OUR CHILD’S WILL! Our parenting style should not reflect breaking a child’s spirit, but we should be breaking their will. Breaking one’s spirit uses tools like anger, intimidation, control, fear, dominance, rage, and projecting our wounded places onto our children. This screams at the child that who they are is not okay and teaches them they have to alter their true selves to please them and keep the peace. We have all experienced and used these tools on others. We know it by the bad fruit it produces and how it makes our hearts feel. Breaking one’s will is totally different and uses tools like empowerment, authority, discipline, being firm, encouragement, consequences, and allowing others to feel uncomfortable. This communicates to the child that they are believed in and called to a higher standard of living. It teaches them that you love and care about them enough not to leave them in their current state. It champions them into becoming all God has called them to be and gives them room to increase their capacity. I do not want to shut my child down and break their spirit. But I DO want to break their will.
I encourage you not to see the following verses through the lens of disciplining harshly but rather through the eyes of a loving Shepherd that uses His rod to train, correct, and guide his sheep to keep them safe.
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24).
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:12).
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, walk along the road, lie down, and get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
“A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire” (Proverbs 29:17).
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9).
**Do not see the word ‘rod’ as spanking or beating a child. The rod was used by a shepherd to pull in, correct, and guide their sheep. It was also used to ward off predators. The rod in this concept is loving, kind and shepherding.
The word ‘break’ is not as in beating down and destroying but in training and discipline like an athlete.
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.