Building Character

Written by Desiree Visser

Good character is best described by its traits, such as integrity, doing the right thing, honesty, courage and being peace-loving. There is no quick-fix to building character – you cannot buy it and it takes a great deal of wisdom to attain it.

As our understanding of intelligence evolves, we have come to realise that there is much more to developing a child than simply providing academic knowledge. Although there are still many rewards and accolades given to the child who performs academically, the true test of character is how it is lived out. Clever people can make poor choices. Wisdom is defined as right use of knowledge. The bible talks a great deal about Godly wisdom in Proverbs 1 – 3 and James 3:13 - 18. It distinguishes between worldly wisdom (which produces jealousy, conflict and ultimately, destruction) and Godly wisdom. Wisdom from heaven cannot be attained outside of God.

We need God’s wisdom to teach our children good character, because it often means going against popular ideas of parenting. But building good character in children requires:
  • Discipline in the true sense of the word – teaching children about a standard of behaviour and enforcing that standard.  That means making a stand (and enforcing it) regarding issues like the programs being watched on the TV, the way children speak to each other, stealing and lying, where children are allowed to visit, and the amount of gaming and screentime.
  • Accountability – teaching children about consequences, even when those consequences make the children unhappy. In many cases, this involves teaching before the child is faced with consequences. For example, a child should be taught that touching a hot oven can burn before allowing the child to carry the consequences (burning) of touching the hot oven. This can involve roleplaying and helping the child work out what would happen should he or she decide to continue with the poor decision. It is important to follow through on these consequences to teach the child accountability.
  • Principles – teaching children that decisions should not be made on the basis of “how I feel” but rather based on principles of what is right and wrong. Feelings are wonderful servants, but terrible masters. Feelings can make life fun, wonderful, and colourful but when our feelings dictate our actions (e.g. I will not clean up my room because I do not feel like it) then we are not building on the right foundation.
  • Humility – good character is built when a child is teachable, and willing to learn. Children who are proud and arrogant do not learn easily. Proverbs has many warnings regarding the fool who does not want to learn.

The attainment of wisdom and the development of good character is a life-long journey, difficult at times and often lonely. But remember God is near and He blesses those who seek Him. He freely gives it to us - James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

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