One of the goals we often have as parents is to raise responsible children who can function well in society. This is a great goal, and one we should have. As Christian parents, many of us also have the goal of raising children who have godly character, or character qualities that exemplify the love of Christ to others. In fact, in studies about homeschooling, one of the main reasons some parents choose to homeschool is so they can focus more time on helping their children develop godly character qualities.
But how do we actually do this? What strategies can we implement to help our children become people of character who show the love of Christ to others? Here are a few ideas that seemed to help with our kids:
- Spend time with God yourself so that you’re exemplifying godly character – kids follow our example much more readily than they do what we say. I remember times when I saw some negative character trait in one of my kids that I recognized as something I also did on occasion! Kids are great that way, they keep you humble! They really will follow your lead, so set a good example by being in the Word, praying and seeking God’s help to live a life pleasing to Him.
- Pray for your kids, for God to work on their character and to bring to attention anything that needs refining. (a good thing to pray for yourself as well!) Take time periodically and ask God to reveal any character issues in your children that need to be addressed and pray for wisdom as to how to do so.
- Have family devotions which include talking about the importance of having godly character: “A Child’s Book of Character Building” by Ron and Rebekah Coriell was a study we enjoyed using for a while in our family devotions. Studying the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is another fun option for building character. I also found a website that has lessons for kids on integrity and godly character that you could check out: http://www.kidsofintegrity.com/ There are many options out there to guide you in talking with your children about godly character.
- Talk about the importance of having godly character throughout the day and use teachable moments when they exhibit godly character or ungodly character. Take the time to talk with them about their good or bad behavior right on the spot, explaining how it was or was not honoring to God. These moments will have a big impact in your child’s life. One caution on this, be careful not to embarrass them by pointing out their negative behavior and lecturing them in front of others. It’s much more effective to take them aside and speak quietly about what happened.
- Read your kids good books that encourage godly character. Missionary stories such as the “Christian Heroes: Then and Now” series by Janet & Geoff Benge are great read aloud options for kids ages 4 and up (there are at least 15 in the series). “Hero Tales” by Dave & Neta Jackson are also wonderful missionary stories for young children through elementary age. The Trailblazer series books are historical fiction about various missionaries over the years and are great for upper elementary children and up. “The Children’s Book of Virtues” by William J. Bennett was another one of our favorites, with stories that exemplified various good character traits. Grace and Truth Books have a lot of great stories that focus on character as well. http://www.graceandtruthbooks.com/ Lastly, the Miller Family Series are wonderful books that inspire kids to live godly lives. There’s a wonderful companion workbook that goes along with the Miller books called “Character Companion for the Miller Family Series” by Kristyn Hage
- Memorize scripture together as a family. Scripture related to the character traits you’re working on as a family or one a specific child needs to work on will be especially helpful. Use music to memorize and have fun with it!
- Use movies as a point of discussion related to character. If you’re watching movies together, watch for times when a character in the movie makes a choice that is godly or shows good character; point it out and discuss it. Or if the opposite happens, and the character makes some bad choices, you can discuss what he should have done that would have had a better outcome and would have honored God. A great book to facilitate discussions related to movies is: “Movie Nights: 25 Movies to Spark Spiritual Discussions with Your Teen” by Heritage Builders.
- Older kids can listen to sermons online related to godly character. There are lots of great sermons on this topic and sometimes hearing it from someone else will really speak to your older child.
- Give them jobs to help around the house. Serving at home will develop many good qualities in your children. It takes discipline and diligence to do a job well, plus doing work at home will develop more of a servant’s heart in your child. On the flip side, having no responsibilities will develop a self-centered attitude. I recommend having a chore chart that rotates what your kids help with so they get some experience in helping with all things needing to be done around the house. It’s good for your kid’s character to help with chores around the house and it’s a huge help to you as well!
- Volunteer together as a family either at church or somewhere else outside the home. Or work together to help a family in need in your neighborhood or from your church. Consider going on a family missions trip or let your kids go on a missions trip with the youth group at church. We saw some incredible growth in our kid’s character after missions trips they went on. Lastly, your example of willingly serving will speak volumes to your children and as adults you’ll have the joy of seeing them serve others as well!
Children are like little sponges, and they grow up fast, so be intentional about building godly character in your children and you’ll see the fruit of your efforts for years to come. Most importantly, pray for God to work in their lives. He is the One who can really transform them into the godly man or woman He wants them to be.