Raising Kids of Character

Parents in America are passionate about teaching their kids good manners.  And that's not a bad thing.  Manners are cultural customs of politeness, and they will help your child throughout life.  But manners are not the same thing as character.  I know a lot of people who have good manners, but bad character.  Manners are surface level, while character is who you really are.  Manners are how you behave in the company of others; character is defined by how you behave when nobody is watching.  Manners make you appear to be a good person; character is what makes you a good person.  Manners will help you make a good first impression.  Character will enable you to maintain long-term relationships.  Manners are not unimportant, but character determines your reputation, as well as the way you will be remembered long after you are gone.  Manners might impress people, but it is character that glorifies God.  This is why character is infinitely more important than manners.

So how do you raise kids of character?  First, evangelize them.  Character development must be internally motivated.  When your child gets saved, the Holy Spirit will give them both the desire and the power to develop Christlike character.  Second, set an example.  Be the kind of person you are teaching your children to be.  A living example is much more powerful than a lecture.  This is another reason to get your kids involved in church where they will regularly interact with mature Christians.  Third, teach them Christlike character qualities.  You can do this by getting them to read Scripture on a regular basis, by bringing them to church where they will be taught the Bible, and by teaching them God's word at home.

A good place in the Bible to find the essential Christian character qualities is Galatians 5:22-23, where Paul lists nine fruits of the Spirit -- nine character traits that the indwelling Holy Spirit is working to produce in our lives.  By regularly pointing to the fruit of the Spirit you can help your child understand the essence of godly character.  To help you, here's a short definition that I've developed for each of fruits of the Spirit. 
  1. Love:  Treat others the way you want to be treated, even if you don't feel like it.
  2. Joy:  Keep a positive, cheerful attitude, even when life is hard.
  3. Peace:  Work hard to get along with others.
  4. Patience:  Wait with a good attitude.
  5. Kindness:  Use words that help others.
  6. Goodness:  Help others in their time of need.
  7. Faithfulness:  Keep your word.
  8. Gentleness:  Stay calm and kind, even when you are angry.
  9. Self-control:  Do what you should do, even when you don't want to.
Feel free to type these up on a piece of paper and post them on the fridge and on the door of your child's room so that they are always visible.


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