January 14, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Character Counts ~ Part 3: Parenting with Purpose
"Commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again." Deuteronomy 6:6-7
"I am writing a book at school." Joshua shouted from the back of the van. "That’s great. What’s it about?" I asked.
"It’s about a boy named Jaylan who goes to the beach with his family and gets stung by a stingray. Then he’s afraid to go in the water. That night he reads his Bible and remembers the story about David. He prays and asks God to give him courage to go swimming again. The next day when his parents want to go in the ocean, he goes and they are really surprised. Tomorrow I am going to write the next chapter where he’s being bullied at school and he’s going to read about Zaccheus and learn about forgiveness."
My husband, J.J., and I looked at each other and smiled. For the past four years we have tried to make God’s word a natural part of our every day life. Each week or two we focus on a different character trait and look for ways to live out the truths of the Bible in our relationships with each other and those around us. Joshua’s story was just one way God is showing us that our efforts to teach our kids how His Word applies to everything we face is making a difference! To hear Joshua taking the character of his story through struggles he has faced, and looking to God’s Word for answers to his problems, was an answer to many of our prayers. There is nothing more we want for our children than for them to see God’s Word, not as a book of rules and regulations, but as a Map written to guide them through life!
Deuteronomy 6:6-7, says to "commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again."
These instructions are a part of God’s parenting Guide. J.J. and I promised to follow them at our children’s dedication. It seemed like a promise we could easily keep when they were wrapped up so cute and cuddly in our arms. But it became a challenge as the reality of parenting set in! It’s hard to find time to do everything we’re supposed to do to help our children develop mentally, physically, emotionally, academically and most important, spiritually.
But this was a promise we wanted to keep, so we got very intentional a few years ago and started parenting with purpose. In the midst of the chaos, we came up with a plan that would fit into our on-the-go schedule. As I shared with you in yesterday’s devotional, I created a character chart with character traits, Bible verses and simple ideas that we could live out as a family. (See Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child - Character Chart.) Here are the steps we took and some ideas to help you get started as you seek to parent with purpose:
Determine to Make Character Count: To get started, tell your child the parallel between gold in the ground and gold in their heart. (See yesterday’s devotional – Mining for Gold.) Show them Bible verses that emphasize the importance of character. Make a commitment to learn about a new character trait every week or two. (For help, see Additional Resources). Choose a regular time, perhaps Sunday afternoon, to decide which trait you will focus on and ways you can practice together. Put a note on your mirrors to remind you each day to look for the gold and not the dirt!
Define Character Traits in Terms Your Children Can Understand: Explain to your child what it means to be responsible or patient in a language she can understand. Take time to read a simple definition and ask your child how they think they can live out the trait at home or at school. Clarify if your child doesn’t understand the meaning. Here are a few examples:
Generosity: Giving your time, treasures or talents.
Obedience: Carrying out instructions without question.
Honesty: Telling the truth.
Responsibility: Doing what is right.
Dig for Pre-existing Nuggets of Gold: Begin by looking for attributes that come naturally for your children. As you become more familiar with the traits, tell your children when you see good character in their actions and attitudes. An initial emphasis on attributes that are natural for your child, will give this new adventure a positive start.
- Is your son compassionate — caring about someone who got hurt on the playground?
- Is your daughter generous — offering to give a friend one of her toys or part of her snack?
- Is your son responsible —taking out the trash or making his bed without being asked?
- Is your daughter forgiving — willing to overlook an offense?
Discuss How You Can Live Out Character Everyday: Children imitate what they see the key people in their lives doing, whether good or bad. Look for ways to "live out" a golden attitude or action each week. It is much easier for a child to grasp a concept if they see it in action
If we aim at nothing, we will hit it every time! But when we narrow our focus and make developing character our target, we can find purpose in our parenting and actually see progress over time. With the strong foundation of His word and an emphasis on character, we can teach our childern how to relate to other people like God relates to us, to do what they say they will do, to take ownership of their own mistakes, and to solve their own problems. Their success (or failure) in meeting all of life’s challenges will be reflected in their level of character development. And just like Jaylan, in the story Joshua is writing, we can lead our children to the Map of God’s Word as we seek to shape their hearts to look more like His each day!
My prayer for today:
Lord, I want to make Your Word a natural part of my life and our family life. I know it has to start with my heart. Please give me a sense of purpose in my parenting as I invest time in shaping the character of my kids. I trust that as we focus on your Word and look for ways to live it out, You will take our hearts and make them more like Yours. Holy Spirit, I depend on You to guide me as I commit myself wholeheartedly to the truths You are teaching me today.
Make a commitment to learn a new character trait this week, along with a simple definition, a related Bible verse and look for simple ways to live it out. Ask God to show you ways to build on the foundation of His word as you seek to develop your character and the character of your kids each day. For additional traits and ideas, see the Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child - Character Chart below.
- Discuss the parallel between gold in the ground and gold in your children’s heart. (See yesterday’s devotional – Mining for Gold.) Tell your children how important it is to discover and develop the gold in each other.
- Notice and nurture the attitude of patience this week.
- Define it in terms that are easy to understand: patience means waiting without complaining.
- Learn a nugget of truth about patience - Ephesians 4:2b, "Be patient, bearing with one another in love."
- Look for ways to live out the attitude of patience as a family:
- Have each family member wait to buy something they really want.
- Ask for something and wait without asking again.
- Wait your turn to talk.
- Be patient if someone makes you mad.
- Have each child sit for five minutes in front of his/her favorite dessert while everyone else leaves the room. If it’s still there when you return, the person gets a double portion. Do this with each person. Talk about the rewards of patience.
- Be patient the next time your child does something frustrating and offer to help instead of growling at them.
- Talk about the dirt that buries the golden attitude of patience:
- Complaining – Philippians 2:14
- Hurried – 1 Thessalonians 5:14 b
- Quick Tempered – Proverbs 14:17
4. Reward your children when they show patience this week.
Psalm 119:129, Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; if gives understanding to the simple. (NIV)
Psalm 19:7-11, God’s laws are perfect. They protect us, make us wise, and give us joy and light. God’s laws are pure, eternal, just. They are more desirable than gold. They are sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb. For they warn us away from harm and give success to those who obey them. (NLT)
Acts 17:11, Now the Bereans were of more noble character…for they received the message with great eagerness and examined scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (NIV)
Galatians 6:9, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (NIV)
Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child ~ Character Chart, by Renee Swope
Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child ~ Seminar Cassette, by Renee Swope
Character Corner, It Starts in the Heart ~ directed by Renee Swope
Shaping Your Childs Character, written by Renee Swope
Focus on Your Child Website – a division of Focus on the Family
Being a Great Mom, Raising Great Kids, by Sharon Jaynes