Going to the library with four little ones was no small task, but I was determined. I discovered this glorious thing called “Toddler Story Time,” which to me meant someone else could take the lead, at least for a few minutes anyway. I was mortified at what my eyes saw. The senior librarian welcomed the children, but not one person in the room responded. She sat down to read the book, and chaos broke out. Kids were running all over the room as loud as they could be. No one seemed to care that she was trying to read to them. My shock morphed into judgment when a child began to play tug of war with the book that the librarian was trying desperately to read, and the mother did not feel led to assist the librarian in getting her book back. Before I knew it, my four joined the circus. I vowed I would never come back again. A week later, we were at the movie theater, and the same thing happened with kids running all over the place, making it impossible to actually watch the movie. Suddenly I realized what Proverbs 22:15 meant when it says, “A child’s heart has a tendency to do wrong, but the rod of discipline removes it far away from him.” Many of us know the ‘spanking’ part of this verse, and we get lost in the debate if children should be spanked. We need to zoom out of that debate and see the bigger picture. Children are foolish by nature. They are selfish by nature. They are immature by nature. Their brains aren’t even fully developed by nature. My job as a parent is to lead them in the direction of honor, respect, kindness, and self-control. This is not a post on spanking, but it IS a post on parents guiding their child’s behavior as a shepherd cares for their flock with their rod. When a sheep is wandering outside of the safety zone, a shepherd uses his rod to guide him back and lead them where they should go. The heart of this verse is about helping our children move away from foolishness through corrections and guidance. If you want to decrease their foolishness, you have to increase your teaching.
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.
Teaching your child to confess their sin robs the enemy of his desire to wrap them in shame. Humility is taught, not to condemn but to FREE us from the sins of our flesh. It looks like this: There is conflict, and you ask, “Sweetie, what did you do wrong?” They tell you their part (confession), and then you help them ask for forgiveness. “Jesus, I hurt my brother. Would You please forgive me?” If they honestly can’t tell you what they did wrong, then YOU haven’t done your part as a parent to teach them what right living (righteousness) looks like in that situation. Teach and empower them in times of peace what right living looks like. Forgiveness isn’t a blank credit card for our sins. It is a GIFT that needs to be acknowledged, honored, and intentionally received. When children mess up, they carry the guilt, which can easily become shameful if not dealt with. Helping them confess brings peace to their heart.
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.
We have been to plenty of hotels where the children above us raced the floors, keeping us up at night. I have used it as a time not to judge but to explain to the kids that their choices do affect others. One night, Ellie (then 9) was bouncing a small ball against the stairs in our hotel room, playing by herself. Thirty minutes later, the front desk called, saying the people below us complained about the noise. I called her over, explained the situation, and asked how she would like to handle it. She said she would stop immediately and asked if she could write them a note apologizing. What I loved about her response is that she had the awareness she had affected them and was eager to not only stop but make it right with them. There is a difference between caring about what people think and caring about the way we affect those around us.
Children might be world changers in training, but they still have childlike immaturity that needs to be cultivated so that they can endure the assignments God wants to give them to change the world around them for a lifetime. Character is a stone in their foundation that must be laid in childhood.
Character Counts is a downloadable digital resource that we created to give parents the How-To in equipping their children with godly character. We provide you with fun and engaging activities to do with your child to empower good character.
Proverbs 29:15 – “A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.”
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. Orphans receive this verse as punishment. Sons and daughters receive this word through the heart of the Father, full of love and instruction.
24/7 free time is not a healthy recipe. Children will create their own fun, which generally becomes no fun at all. Children thrive best with structure mixed with lots of rest and play.
This is a great write-up from my friend who is an outstanding mother raising solid children. I agree that we cannot force our children to do anything, but we absolutely are called to create a lifestyle where we expect love, respect, and kindness from our children. It is taught, reinforced, and intentionally gone after by parents who value the process of character training.
“During this holiday season: My kids will be required to be warm and loving to all of their relatives, whether they see them often or see them a few times a year. They will be expected to behave, and though I can’t force them to *love* anything, they will be expected to appreciate every friend and family event we attend (hello, 6 Christmases). They will be given the knowledge that they are so lucky to have so many friends and family to celebrate with. They will say thank you and be grateful for every single gift that is given to them, regardless if it’s something they would choose for themselves. They will once again be taught that someone took time out of their busy life to think of them and used their hard-earned money to purchase them something and that – regardless of what is in the present – the act behind getting it is more than enough to be thankful for. As their parent, I will remember this too. Our guests can overstay, overshare, give us advice, come bearing gifts or come just as themselves with no gift at all, tell my girls they are beautiful without bringing up that they are also intelligent and immensely capable of anything they put their minds to – and even if ALL of it is ‘unwanted,’ we will smile and be grateful that we have people who care enough to do so. I keep seeing these posts about kids not being required to show love (which can be shown in more ways than just hugging) to relatives they don’t see often. They don’t have to behave at or love the events they attend. I see posts about not giving parents unwanted advice or warning about guests overstaying their welcome. I see posts about what kinds of gifts are considered acceptable, posts about how we shouldn’t call young girls pretty and should replace it with different words, and all it makes me think is, my goodness (!!). When did all of these things – compliments, gifts, friendly visits, advice, showing love towards a child, family spending time with family… things more often motivated by love than not – become things we need to put so many rules on? My kids will be taught that people show love in different and sometimes funny ways but to always look behind the gesture and see that, more often than not, it is love. As for me and my family, we will give the benefit of the doubt.
Sincerely, The odd mom out?”
I want to encourage you to make a small yet significant shift in your parenting. First, switch your focus from trying to rid them of conflict to growing them to avoid the conflict. There is a radical difference between the two. Move from being a constant referee to being their teacher to set them up for success. Second, we cannot help someone if we first do not know what the issue is. The next time they are in conflict, instead of reacting, stop for a moment and watch what is going on. It is not about who has what toy, but rather issues of selfishness, impatience, lack of self-control, rudeness, etc. – pinpointing where your child needs to grow and mature is vital to helping them. Third, teach them what you want in times of peace. The Kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17), and it is okay to teach and equip our children with the tools of JOY. Make it fun, be creative, and partner with joy in your parenting. Training in the times of peace will give you tools to use in the moments of conflict. Teaching during conflict has proven to be far less effective. Fourth, children are creative. You could tell them ‘NO’ all day long, and they will still come up with another creative way to do something. Focus 90% of your parenting on teaching and training in the times of peace what you DO want. Role-play what selfishness looks like at the table, in the car, with toys, and then model for them what you DO want from them during those situations. This empowers them with how to succeed.
I would rather have my children make a big mess, even in front of others, and learn from it than model perfect outward behavior in front of others and have a deceitful heart that is cruel and lacking in self-control. I would rather have them get an F on an assignment and learn from their mistakes than be on the Honor Roll and walk-in entitlement or manipulation. Childhood is not the time to expect perfection but give them the skills and tools to live successful adult lives.