Whenever I start talking to parents about being intentional in teaching their kids how to grow in Godly character, one of their biggest concerns is this. They know they themselves don’t have it together and they don’t want to be hypocrites in the eyes of their children. How parents can walk the talk when growing kids in character is a noble concern.
Kids are very quick to see hypocrisy so we do need to walk the talk, not just talk it – we do need to practice what we teach. But this does not mean that we have to have each character trait down pat in our life before we teach our kids. Poor kids if that was the case!!
But do we have a right understanding of hypocrisy?
Is Hypocrisy Really the Issue?
Hypocrisy is when there is a difference between what we say and what we do. Hypocrisy is when we set out to look like we know it all – and yet we don’t. Hypocrisy is pretending that we have it all sorted, that we have arrived.
Our kids will see that pretense and turn away from our instruction.
We know from our own life that we do not want to learn from someone who is not walking the talk. So when it comes to teaching our kids Godly character – we know we want to be putting it into practice. We want to show our kids that we are growing in character.
And this is the key – it is about showing them that we are GROWING in character – not that we have it all together and not that we have made it.
Be a Teacher Who Models Growing
We need to show our kids, that we are serious about growing in character.
I define character as the quality of our responses to people or circumstances, based on our moral values.
When we create an atmosphere of learning good responses as our normal family way, we start to create a culture of character in our family. This culture can only be healthy if it is based on growing rather than arriving.
Will any of us ever be fully, completely, totally – orderly, or punctual, or diligent, or creative? I doubt it ! It isn’t about having arrived at achieving total success in any one of these character qualities, but rather a commitment to continue to grow and practice choices based on our moral values. This is what character development is about.
5 Keys for Growing Kids In Character
Once we have a right understanding of what is and what isn’t hypocrisy, we can be comfortable with the idea of teaching our kids as we ourselves grow in the very same character lessons. But as the parents, we need to take the lead in character development, and as such we become a role model for our children.
1. Take responsibility for your choices.
How we respond to our children, to our spouse, to other people in our life is our responsibility. It doesn’t matter how stressed we are, how frustrated, how disappointed, or even how excited we are – we are still, and always, responsible to say and do the right thing.
When we acknowledge that circumstances are not responsible for our choices then we will start to walk the talk when it comes to teaching character.
2. Be humble and acknowledge when you’ve not done it right.
We will mess up. We will respond inappropriately. We will forget every ounce of self-control, patience, respect or responsibility (to name a few) somewhere along the line.
An aspect of taking responsibility for our own choices is to be humble and acknowledge when we do wrong, and to take responsibility for putting it right. When our children see us acknowledging our mistakes and asking for forgiveness they will see that we are walking the talk.
3. Be honest and know where you need to grow.
When we have an honest look at our own life, when we can identify the areas where we need to grow, and then make a plan to work towards that area of change – our children will see our sincerity, see that we really are walking the talk when it comes to growing in character. They will see that we are applying the same standards to our own life.
4. Be accountable.
When it comes to teaching our kids character we hold the position of helping them, guiding them, holding them accountable. We will set up lifestyle structures to help them grow strong. We will walk along side of them.
We need this same support.
This is the beauty of growing together in a family – the children can support you and hold you accountable even as you support them, and hold them accountable.
When you choose this level of transparency your children will know you are walking the talk.
5. Pray for God’s help in growing and maturing.
The thing is – we don’t have to do this on our own. I am often reminded of the scripture that says: God’s grace is sufficient for me.
Though there are many definitions of grace the one that resonates with my heart is “the influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart of man”. When the Holy Spirit hovers over us, he enables us to do the things that please God. God’s grace changes us.
It is with God’s grace that we can grow in character. It is with God’s grace that we can respond to people and circumstances in a way that glorifies God.
All we need to do is pray.
So practice what you teach with your kids.
Being a parent isn’t about having it all right. It is about living life with our kids, showing them what it means to be a person of character. And though we want to be consistent in living out our morals and values, one aspect of those very same values is that we are humble and grow.
Being a person of character happens over time. When our kids see us on our journey – failing, learning and growing from those failures they start to see character development as a life long pursuit (which it is!) And in the process we have not only modeled character, we have modeled a real learning journey. This is an example that they can truly follow.
Bonus worksheets to help you be intentional in growing in character!
Living with godly character is about changing how we respond to life – it doesn’t just happen! Use these worksheets to be honest and intentional in growing in character.
Belinda Letchford writes at www.livelifewithyourkids.com where she encourages families to be intentional and relational in their family life: that every issue faced by family can be addressed in a heart focused way. Belinda is married to Peter and lives on a farm on the outskirts of a remote Australian outback town. They have four adult children, whom they homeschooled from prep to year 12. (The youngest is in his last year this year!) As a family we enjoy playing board games, having parties, watching movies and camping (though we don’t do it often enough). Get the worksheet designed to help you grow in character.