Nine years ago, when we first discovered that we were soon-to-be parents, we were delighted. Afterwhich, nine months down the road, my husband said to me, “Let’s homeschool our child!”. “Homeschool?!” I have no experience at all. Neither a teacher nor a trained instructor.
This, somehow, has set me pondering of what a parent should do for her child when she comes. What should I fall on to nurture our children? Based on my own knowledge and wisdom? From the many good parenting books out there? How do we train a Christian Character Traits?
Training children is a huge responsibility and as parents, we are entrusted to guide the little ones and I feel that it is a tall order. As a Christian parent, we find strength and wisdom in God’s word. Personally, I find that building a character begins when we start training our child at a tender age, even at birth. Lots of prayers needed!
The Bible said in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he (she too) should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
The path we (as parents) choose, the way we walk impact those who are watching especially our children. We don’t teach or train just because other is watching. It is unto the Lord since children are entrusted in our care. It is important for children to learn new skill through training and teaching as it fills the mind, shapes habits and enables a child to make use of what he/she already has in his/her prossesion.
Training and teaching go together in upbringing a child. And most importantly, consistency and a willing heart from a parent to say “Sorry.” when we are in the wrong goes a long way because children learn by example. So as parents, we have to lead by example. My husband and I have apologized to our children umpteen times! When we failed to be patient or thoughtful, they are hurt. What amazed us was (still is) how quickly they wrapped their little arms around us and said, “It’s okay.” in that cheerful forgiving manner.
Every little actions come from the heart so we ought to look into shepherding the little heart of our children. But how do we start training and teaching the little baby who knows not communication through talking and who just baby-talk. We first started off training their obedience in tender age through light spank on their thigh to let them know who is in authority. They learn to associate and slowly understand our every single action. With proper training, it always works with every child. That is how we believe so. On the side note: We do use the rod (during training) to remind (if need be) but before doing so, we hear them, we explain to them what went wrong, what is the correct way/method to go, apply the rod (mainly when undesirable behavior persist), reassured by hugging and pray with them.
It is also when they are tender in age that we are able to build their characters, to shape and mold. We had better be busy doing these while we can as it is a lot easier to train, teach and instill values when they are 1,3,6, than when they are in their teens. Though we might have failed in their formative years, we still need to be loving as we teach and train our children. That was how I remember my parents doing so for me and my siblings.
Our children have to apply what they have learnt into their daily life. This is the most difficult part because most of the time (or maybe all the time), it is our heart telling us what to do. What we ought to do, we do not. What we not ought to do, we do them. How contradicting it is! But that’s life. Along with each character we build into our children, we accompanied them with stories we can find through Bible lesson time. We especially enjoy the character building lesson where the story will has its meaning behind them. It makes them think, ask questions and from there, we will know if they understand or apply to their daily walk. When my daughter was 3 years old, she was told not to eat the jelly bean but her heart desire was that “I want it, why not?” She ate it and when asked, she answered, “No, I didn’t eat.” That was our first encountered with her heart desire vs obedient that led to dishonesty. Building good character in children through lots of reminders and explanations doesn’t mean that they don’t fall into sin. We all do, even adult. She was given a stern hard discipline on her action. Young children lack maturity and wisdom. We need to guide them and build the good traits in them through firmness, patience and love.
To serve and not be served, to love other as yourself, to give (be loving) is better than to receive. All these, we as parents have to first step out and lead by example. Build into them the courage and not be shy. Children love to help, we mustn’t take away their love by simply brushing it aside just because they are slow, can’t do a good job, untidy, mummy-do-a-better-faster-job-than-you kind of attitude. Kids learn and they learn fast. Soon, they will be waiting for you to serve them than they having the responsible, diligent and willing character. In our home, we try our best to keep it as a God-centered home, the main purpose is to please and serve God. Slowly, you will find them willingly serve others too.
I recalled how both my children cried when they were denied from helping out due to them being sick. Every fourth Sunday evening, we have our kitchen duty in Church by giving out packets of rice to people. They have been serving others with such cheerfulness which make us glad. I am thankful for their willingness to help out but at the same time, we have to teach them that not every time, things would go their way and they need to learn to accept situation (be flexible) and not be overly unhappy about it.
Do we face problem like bad attitudes? Yes, of course! Every child goes through a phase of growing up. No matter, how much we teach, train, remind, there are times where their characters are being tested. Sometimes, they fall really hard. They need to learn to pick themselves up through encouragement, reading the Bible and reapplying what they have learnt to keep their hearts together.
We may not realized this but most of the time, our children’ characters are molded through their experiences with us.
Do we ignore our little ones when we’re busy? – They, in turn, will learn to ignore other (including siblings) too. Do we fail to look at them when they speak to us? – They will also learn not to look at people when in conversation (read: rude, impolite). There was once I noticed my daughter wasn’t looking at me when I talked to her. I disliked it and told her not to do again. Soon, I realized that I am doing the same to her. I was busy washing dishes or doing other work that when she spoke to me, I didn’t look at her. Ouch! That was like a slap onto my face. I am teaching her something that I didn’t do it myself. Apologized and make an effort not to repeat it again. Do we get angry with them when they couldn’t do certain things right? – We, too, have to look into our heart of anger because it plays a big part in our life and we certainly don’t want to turn them into an angry monster.
Most of the time, we are so involved in our own lives (and doing good unto others) that we fail to be good and do good to those who live with us. Every time we are with our children, grab the opportunity to teach, train and build a good character. It can be through an experience you both encountered, talk about it, or your child displays a good character trait, simply encourage the child will make the child more willing to keep the good character. It’s never too late!
Galatians 5:22-23 “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: …” We are working on building this fruit into our children (and us too) because it is important to us just like a soft answer will turn away wrath.
I thank God for His kindness that I was given this privilege to stay home and able to see my children daily even though He knows I am not perfect and will make mistakes along the way. He gives me (and my husband) this privilege to be the primary teachers for our children enabling us with the promises from the Bible. When we draw on His strength and wisdom, He will also supplies us of what we need to parent our children.
My current read and has been useful –
1. The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo
2. Shepherding a child’s heart by Tedd Tripp