Saturday, September 8, 2012

Inspiring Great Character Part II: The Top Ten

This probably should have been Part I...but it isn't. You can read Part I here.

There are many, many fantastic character qualities that we should be instilling in our children daily. The Duggar family [who I absolutely adore] has a very thorough chart that is downloadable in PDF form here, which includes a Bible verse  that corresponds with each quality, as well as each operational definition. Some of the definitions that they use are a little bit over the head of my man-cub, and that is why I have created my own, preschooler-friendly definitions that I use with him.

In my opinion, the most practical and simplest way to teach your child a character quality is to first teach them the definition, then practice the application. You could do this with one quality per month, as we do, or focus on one until your child has mastered it most of the time. There are always opportunities to practice good character, and some are easier than others. You know your kid. I know that my son will start to rebel if I harp on one topic for too long.

I deeply believe that the very first character qualities a child should learn and practice are obedience and self-control. These qualities cover a multitude of situations. I also like them because they can be applied to daily life with Mommy and Daddy as well as the child's relationship with God. We discuss and practice the definitions and applications of these two qualities almost every day, and then incorporate others based on the season or a particular situation we are facing. So, for example, November is a great time to practice gratitude and December would be great for generosity.

The following are my Top Ten favorite character qualities to teach my children, along with the simple, kid-friendly operational definitions that I use, and (when applicable) anything else that I have used to help teach that particular quality (such as a rhyme or practice game).

1. OBEDIENCE: "I listen and I do it!"
 -a rhyme that we recite often is "Obey right away!" and I clap my hands abruptly during the "right away"        part of the rhyme.
    -to expand on this idea you could teach the 3 Rules of Obedience: obeying joyfully, quickly and thoroughly
    -there are several ways to practice obedience as a game, but the easiest is just to pump your child up about the "Obey Game" and remind them how to obey instantly and with a good attitude. Then give them simple tasks to obey, such as "Walk to the front door, touch it, and then walk back to me." You could add multiple steps to each instruction based on the age and attention span of the child. Don't forget the praise after they complete the task!

2. SELF-CONTROL: "I do what I am supposed to do, not what I want to do."
-we learned Galatians 5:22-23 as our memory verse as we were focusing on self-control.
     -I find it helpful to prepare man-cub in advance of situations that will require self-control. I explain the situation we are approaching in as much detail as possible, and then we discuss examples of good self-control in that situation and what types of behavior would not be using self-control. This was huge when we went in for his 4 year old shots!

3. ATTENTIVENESS: "I show respect for others by paying close attention to what they say."
 -Attentiveness and it's definition are a bit lengthy and difficult to say. We have shortened it to "Pay attention! Look and listen!" (point to eyes and ears while saying "look and listen" portion). At this point, when attentiveness is required, I can just say "Pay attention..." and he finishes the rest of the rhyme.

4. JOYFULNESS: "I show a happy attitude, no matter what!"

5. GRATITUDE (THANKFULNESS): "I am thankful for what I am given."
 -A phrase growing in popularity that we use a lot around here is "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit!"
       -We discuss this a LOT around birthdays and Christmas, but also anytime that he gets the "I want" syndrome. This may not be appropriate for every child, depending on maturity level, but we recently showed man-cub photos of orphans in third-world countries that live in garbage dumps. We talked about how little so many people in the world have and we also talked about how much we have. This was a good time to talk about needs vs. wants.

6. GENEROSITY: "I have so much, I am happy to share what I have with others."
-This year we are planning to focus a lot of our attention and energy on generous giving at holiday time. Take your child shopping for Operation Christmas Child or an Angel Tree. Involve them in going through their old toys and donating the things they do not use. Make blessing bags to give to homeless, and even take them to a soup kitchen to serve (if age appropriate). We want to focus on being generous with our time, resources and energy, but even small lessons on sharing with their friends can be lessons in generosity. I really try to remind man-cub that everything we have comes from God, so we do not have the right to be greedy with what we have.

7. RESOURCEFULNESS: "I make the best of everything that God has given me."
 -The best way that I can think to teach this quality is to let your children see you be resourceful. Maybe by fixing something that is broken instead of throwing it out. Explain to them that you are doing that to be resourceful. Or maybe they can help you upcycle something old into something new and useful. Even if your kids are hanging out with you while you cook dinner or do the grocery shopping, talk to them about being resourceful in your use of ingredients. This can be a hard concept to distinguish from thriftiness, but since they are both great qualities for your kids to know, don't worry if the lines are little blurry on these two.
      -I saw a plaque somewhere (probably on Pinterest) that said "Use it up, wear it out, make it last...or do without." What a great little motto for resourcefulness!

8. SERVANT ATTITUDE: "I am willing to help others, even when it isn't exactly what I want to be doing"
 -The idea of serving others even when it inconveniences us or interferes with our preferences is a difficult one, even for adults. But it is this attitude that distinguishes the true follower of Christ. I am constantly trying to think up ways for my whole family to develop more servant-like character. Again, I think that this is best done by example. Letting my child see me giving up my personal time and preferences for the service of others is the way he will learn that service is a joy not a chore.

9. FORGIVENESS: "I forgive others even if they don't ask for it or seem to deserve it"
 -We implement this simply by incorporating the phrase "I forgive you." into our resolutions with each other and with our kids. When anyone in this house apologizes for anything, the response should be a sincere, enthusiastic "I forgive you!" Additionally, we try to remember to ask for forgiveness in our apologies to one another. We really want the atmosphere of our home to one where people are quick to ask for forgiveness and to forgive.

10. LOVE {the big one!} "I treat others the same way I want to be treated."
 -I really try to teach (and remind myself) that love is supposed to be selfless and unconditional. There are no asterisks next to Jesus' command to love one another. This love goes beyond tolerance and beyond our families and social circles. Whoa. Huge. The undertaking of teaching your child to love everyone selflessly and unconditionally is one that would scare any reasonable person. And as always, it starts with us.

There are so many more character qualities that can and should be taught to our kids. There are so many, many more ways to teach and apply each that are listed here. I am not seeking to elevate these above others, these are just my main focus for now. I also find these the easiest to grasp at his age. Qualities like sincerity, virtue, and trustworthiness may be a bit over his head for now. And that's okay. The time will come. I really hope that at least one of my ideas inspired you. I also would love to hear what qualities you find most important and how you like to teach and practice them!

1 comment:

  1. I agree with all your top ten. Obedience and self control are so important. I think with those, all the others come to the child a lot easier. Thanks for sharing at Mom's Library!