Creating an Individual Character Plan
- Monday, September 29, 2003
I patted the spot next to me on the couch and beckoned, "Come here, sweetie." Our family cat, Mia, sauntered into the room and stopped when she heard me call. She remained standing where she was on the floor in the middle of the room and simply gave me a long, slow blink. She showed no sign of budging, even though she knew perfectly well what I wanted from her. In fact, just to rub it in, she lowered her rump to the floor, curled her tail around her front paws, and tossing me another blink, her face said, "You've got to be kidding."
How different from Mia was our family pet when I was growing up. We had a Saint Bernard dog named Babe. I could be standing yards away from her outside, shout a quick, happy, "Come here, Babe!" and within seconds I had a 150 pound body of carpet bounding towards me, all paws, ears and flapping lips. She longed to be called, longed to please, and longed to "come."
So what in the world was wrong with our cat? Not a thing. She was acting exactly as a cat was supposed to act. Actually, it would be ludicrous to expect her to act like anything else. If she had responded to me the way Babe used to, I would definitely think something was very wrong! For our cat to behave like our dog would simply not be her cat nature.
When Adam fell and sin entered the world, the very nature of man changed forever. No longer was man perfect and sinless. From then on Adam and all his posterity have hearts made of stone, hearts which hate God and love self. This biblical truth must be kept in our minds as we parent our children, both our neurotypical children and our special needs children. We mustn't be surprised when our children behave as though they have anything but a sinful nature. It is our job, however, to point our children to Christ and their need of a Savior. And unlike the animals, God has designed a way for our hearts to be born from above, changed from stone to flesh.
We homeschoolers face a new school year and are brought to consider what our greatest priorities are for our children as we create our own Individual Education Plans (IEP) for them. I submit that, even above our child's IEP, we seek first to create their ICP. What is that you ask? An ICP is an Individualized Character Plan. And as with IEP's, each child is at a different place in every area. That which one child seems to have mastered, is that which another endlessly struggles. This is why it must be individualized and tailored to where each of our children are so that we are not expecting more from them, or less from them, than they can give.
Part of pointing our children to Christ is teaching them the standards of God's moral law and instilling godly character qualities and habits, traits which reflect their Creator. Just as we cannot expect our children to learn the 3 R's, or tying their shoes, or how to hold a pencil correctly, without being taught, neither can they learn to behave in a manner which pleases God without being taught, because it isn't common to their nature.
My 9-year-old son, Drew, has autism. Recently he was having a day, which we refer to as a "funk day." His attitude was sour, he was slow to obey, and he was just plain unpleasant to be around. When he gets like that, I'm forced into this horrid place of doubting myself and my abilities as a mom and homeschool teacher. I hate when I get like that!
We've been working on some specific table manners with Drew and we have this "system" all mapped out. If Drew does "such and such" then part of his dessert is cut away and he has to leave the table and gain composure on his bed before he can return to the table. He has been doing quite well for a long time, but, well, then there was his day of funk. Drew erred, the stated consequences were meted, and although God helped me to stay calm and objective, Drew got really upset. He knew perfectly well what was expected of him and what the consequences would be because we had been through this many times before. I was so disappointed in how he responded. I prayed and asked God to please show me how to deal with him----I felt so completely inept!
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