As a father of four kids, I want to address a great need in our world — kids with character.
I want my children to achieve greatness with their life. Kim and I have pushed them to succeed academically. We have encouraged each of them to flourish in an art and a sport. Many parents want their students to flourish in these ways, however, if they lack character, their success in other areas will leave them deeply flawed. Our nation doesn’t need any more educated brats or athletic punks. Our culture creates a challenging environment that feeds the narcissistic lusts of human nature making it a challenge to raise kids with character.
There are, however, some strategies to help you guide them in their character development.
1. Model character in the context of relationship.
You cannot lead where you do not go. You must model character. The home is the first, and most important, learning environment. If you can’t control your temper, if you have a porn stash, if you cheat at business, don’t expect your children to do better. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And the words, “Do as I say, not as I do” ring hollow.
Let your kids see you praying. Let them see you wrestle with ethical dilemmas. Let them see you making positive moral choices. Then invite your children into your world at age appropriate times to watch you do the right thing. Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.
2. The number one enemy is the wrong crowd. Bad company corrupts good morals.
Buddy Scott has worked as a youth therapist for many years. He has specialized in young people struggling with major character issues – stealing, harming others, runaways, and rebels. In his book, “Relief for Hurting Parents,” he says the number one enemy for your child is the wrong crowd. I have interviewed many people for my writings. I have watched the choices and consequences of many lives in 24 years of ministry, and when I listen to the stories of people who end up at my office trying to get their life back together they all have this phrase in common, “I started hanging out with the wrong crowd.”
Proximity equals influence. Eugene Rivers, a Pentecostal minister in one of Boston’s toughest neighborhoods, moved into the city from the suburbs. Trying to learn the neighborhood, he sought out a local gang leader and drug dealer named Selvin Brown. He was a tough talking, sassy, inner city gun-slinger. Selvin showed the good pastor around the neighborhood and gave him a lesson as to why God was losing and gangs were winning the battle for souls of inner-city kids
In one sentence he explained it: “I’m here when Johnny goes out for a loaf of bread for Mamma, I’m there when Johnny goes to school and when he comes home from school. I’m there, you’re not, I win, you lose. It’s all about being there.” Make sure you are there for you kids. And make sure you know their associations. It’s okay for you to show up at their school and have lunch with your child and their friends. It’s okay for you to follow up on where they said they were going and who they are with. You are the parent. Protect them from poor influences.
3. Teach moral principles based on God’s nature
God has given us a moral law that – just like physical laws – govern our world. He has also given us a will in order that He can rule in love. These moral laws are not arbitrary. They are rooted in His nature and character. Therefore, when you train your children, help them see the bigger picture so that they understand that God gave us moral laws to help us live well in the world He created.
I recently watched a public figure answer a question regarding a certain behavior. She was challenged on it and replied, “Well, that’s how I was raised.” What she doesn’t understand is that the moral law is not dependent upon how we were raised. Right and wrong exist independently of how we were raised. Being raised by thieves doesn’t make stealing right.
Right and wrong are rooted in God’s character. Lying is wrong because God is truth. We have fair and unfair because God is just. Sexual immorality is wrong because God is loving, pure and faithful. These things are not wrong because the Bible says they are wrong. The Bible says they are wrong because the Bible reflects God’s character. Whatever does not correspond to God’s character is not true, moral, or right. Therefore, making poor choices will lead to a fractured relationship with God and others, violate our purpose and lead poor consequences.
When we model right decision-making, guard our children from poor influences, and give them the larger picture of right and wrong, they will have a greater opportunity to allow their talents to propel them to greatness without the hindrances of poor character. Stay tuned for more on this as we honor the role of the father.