The Bible teaches that one of our primary responsibilities in raising our kids to know, love, and follow Jesus is to teach our children to be like Jesus in character.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:29
“…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24
The problem is that because of our sinful nature and the negative influences of the world we live in, if we aren’t intentional about teaching character, sadly it is very easy to raise children that look nothing like Jesus.
And who is going to want to know about Jesus if we can’t demonstrate His character and love to others? So we must be intentional to develop these character traits in our children.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 ESV
Here are five steps to teach Godly character to your children:
1. Demonstrate Godly Character Yourself.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard my kids talk in an impatient or rude way and I realize that they sound just like me when I am impatient and rude- ouch! On the other hand, every time I see a family with sweet, polite children, I frequently see the same sweet character in the parents! Kids are more influenced by watching the way we act than listening to what we say. This is a good reminder to start every morning asking Jesus to fill us with the fruit of His Spirit and help us to be great examples to our kids!
2. Pray for Godly character.
We cannot force ourselves to have Godly character with pure motives. It must come through God’s Spirit at work in us. We may look good on the outside and teach our children how to act right so others will think we have it all together, but our internal motivation will only be sinful. In order to counteract this, we need to teach our kids that we NEED Jesus to help us. We need to pray and ask for His Spirit to fill us, so we can look more like Jesus, and He can get the glory, not us!
3. Choose one character trait to work on at a time.
Do an inventory of your kids’ character over the next few days to see what character qualities they need the most help learning. Pick one character trait, and teach them what it means. Look up verses about it, and give examples of how to demonstrate the character trait in a variety of situations. Make a visual to remind them of the character quality, and keep it on the table to talk about each morning.
4. Practice, practice, practice character.
Once you have identified the character trait, defined it, and they understand how to use it, remind them to use it throughout the day when situations arise. Talk about certain situations that will come up later in the day and ask how they should respond with the targeted character trait. If they don’t respond well, try a “do over” and reenact what just happened, but the right way.
5. Reinforce character traits to make them stick.
Catch your children throughout the day using positive character qualities. Instead of just focusing on the behavior like, “Johnny, you ate all your vegetables!” focus on the character trait they are demonstrating like, “Johnny, way to have a content heart and eat your vegetables even when they are not your favorite!” Stickers, high fives, and tickles are great reinforcers for younger kids, and giving privileges are great reinforcers for the older ones. Positive reinforcements and words of affirmation can go a long way to encourage godly character to stick around in our children’s hearts!
Be patient! Character development is a lifelong process. We should know this because we ourselves are still being refined in our own character. Make sure character training is lighthearted and fun, not a burden. Once you have mastered a character trait, move on to another one with the same process. Believe me, there are always things that can be worked on- it’s a never-ending process! Keep it positive, and when they mess up or are just having a bad day, extend grace and forgiveness. Messing up will continue to point them to their need for a Savior and His abundant grace that He gives us each day.