If you read my homeschool mission statement you know that building Godly character in my children is important to me. I sincerely believe that we need to raise our children to be Christ focused individuals first and foremost. I feel like if we teach our children to be followers of Jesus, everything else we want for them will fall into place naturally.
I’m not saying that we don’t need to concern ourselves with teaching our children the fundamentals like reading and math. But we do need to remember that these things are just tools. Important tools yes, but still just tools. Undoubtedly our children will use the tools learned to gain employment and become a contributing member of society. However, we need to be careful not to let the academic learning overshadow training them to be individuals of character.
Teaching Character Through Example
The content of our children’s character will be what shapes their future. So I ask, what character lessons are you teaching your children? You see these are the lessons that are not taught in textbooks. Yes, you can (and should) teach from Bible stories of Jesus’ character. You should teach the Bible passages on the fruit of the spirit, and explain what Christ like character looks like. But, our children are sponges. They will learn these lessons best by the behavior we model to them.
Our kids are watching us. They see how we react in stressful or unfavorable situations. They notice how we behave when we get angry. Kids notice when we go out of our way to help or serve others. They will see when we offer grace and forgiveness. Kids are very perceptive, they will see the good and the bad.
So even though teaching Godly character to our kids is important to me, it’s not in the “lesson plan” of our school day. Instead I’m teaching this to our kids by living my life in a way that is God honoring (to the best of my human ability anyway). I guess you would say I’m teaching these lessons by being a living example.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect. I have my flaws and I don’t always do what Jesus would do. But, simply knowing that my children are watching helps me be mindful on the character qualities I am living out.
Lately I have been working hard on displaying what offering grace looks like to Grasshopper. He struggles daily with both ADHD and dyslexia. This means he gets frustrated with school work (especially reading and spelling) often. He wants to be perfect, and will explode into an uncontrollable meltdown when the frustrations come. I’ve learned in these moments how to extend grace to him in hopes that he will offer himself some grace. I have to say, I’ve seen some improvement in this area.
Seeing Our Children Model Christlike Character
So, how do you know if living by example is working? You’ll see it in your child’s character. Of course the flip side of the coin is also true. If you are not living in a Godly manner yourself, chances are your kids won’t either.
Grasshopper extended grace to me a few days ago in a remarkable way with maturity beyond his years. We had to travel for another doctor appointment for Ladybug. It was the second trip that week for appointments. The first was a 3 1/2 hour long drive, the second trip was shorter, only 3 hours.
We arrived for the second appointment, and while checking in the lady at the counter said, “didn’t anyone call you?” Instantly my heart sank. I knew what that meant, Ladybug’s appointment was no longer on that day. I responded by saying we hadn’t gotten a call thinking within the last couple days. As we were talking however, it slowly came back to me. I had gotten a call to reschedule the appointment a couple months ago, but the call happened when I wasn’t able to write it down.
Like I said, this was our second trip that week we had taken for doctor appointments. Between this and other things that have been going on, I was already operating in survival mode. I’ve been burned out for a few weeks. It took everything I had not to break down crying right then and there. The stresses of life have been mounting up, and I certainly had better things to do with my time then spend an entire day traveling for a non-existent appointment.
As we were standing there determining that I had indeed gotten the call and screwed up, Grasshopper started to say something hurtful about the fact that we had just spent 3 hours in the car for nothing. Before he finished his sentence, he saw my face. He saw I was about to break down and cry. In that moment, he offered me grace. He said it was ok and he wasn’t mad. He told me not to feel bad and it was ok that I made a mistake. In a moment where all I wanted to do was beat myself up, my eight year old was the one to extend grace to me and remind me that it’s ok.
So, I gathered myself together. We made a bathroom break and started to drive home. I did cry in the car, blaming myself for being irresponsible and feeling guilty for the unproductive day. Grasshopper however continued to encourage me. When we stopped for lunch he said, “Mom, I’m glad you made the mistake because otherwise I wouldn’t of gotten to eat this yumminess!” About an hour later he proclaimed that he was having a great day because the three of us got to spend a lot of time together.
This isn’t the only example I could give, but it’s one that sticks out. In these moments, Grasshopper not only offered me the grace I needed, he also reminded me that our children do learn by our example. He had absorbed all those moments where I have offered him grace and returned that same grace back to me. He is watching us and learning how to be Christlike through our example.
So the next time you’re tempted to act out at a situation, or behave in a way that doesn’t promote the character you want your children to show. Remember they are watching. They are learning. Their character good or bad is a reflection of what they have seen and experienced from the role models in their life. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s peers, or a TV show they watch. As parents it’s our job to model Christ like character to our children. It’s a task that cannot be taken lightly.