There is little more valuable than a strong character. Instilling this in children today, requires a little ‘give and take’. But in the end, consistency is what builds the strongest fortitude in a Childs life. It sets them up for success, whatever career path they choose. Here are 5 Simple ways to build ‘Strength of Character’ daily in your children.
#1. Hey Mama. Give them GOOD work.
Strength of character is born from confidence in your ability. Unfortunately, we do not gain ‘confidence’ from everything being handed to us.
I often hear parents tell me they do not want to be hard on their children and require they do things like ‘chores’. This is often rooted in the parents’ own frustrations of childhood, or perhaps the longing to ‘keep their children little’ a little longer.
Let me tell you. I was an eighteen year old freshman at University who did not understand how to do my own laundry. And it was NOT a pleasant experience. I assure you I have had my fair share of practice since that season of life.
But it is ‘unfair’ of us as parents to not require our children to be responsible for basics.
If your child is over ten (even eight year old’s can learn) for Pete sake give them the pleasure of learning how to be autonomous and do their own laundry. You will not believe the pride on their faces and the excellent skills they will conquer early on.
Children must build confidence in their own ability to accomplish ‘basics and beyond’. Whether It’s laundry, taking out the garbage or making their bed each morning. This builds strength of character in their gut.
DON’T do it for them.
Believe me, they may not exclusively ‘thank you’ as adults (or as they grow), but their life and confidence will.
#2. Mama, GET INVOLVED.
They say we should ‘avoid’ getting involved in our children’s squabbles.
But HOW we get involved really matters.
When we hear our children bickering, we listen attentively.
Because these are incredible ‘learning opportunities’ for character development.
And those are the real GEMS of parenting tools.
Some of the fiercest attitudes will come pouring out in the middles of a heated argument between children, (adults can relate too).
But what an opportunity to witness and respond with healthy advice on how to handle those overwhelming emotions. It can be difficult to know what to do, as a child, when our feelings are bigger than our control.
Offering a helpful ‘example’ or story from your own childhood, the Bible, or creating a story to illustrate your point, helps kids feel understood, and their feelings acknowledged. Additionally, it helps them see why their behaviour is escalating the situation or how they are not communicating clearly and there is misunderstanding happening.
We all need advice. Be the voice of wisdom and advice in your kids life in a loving way. The daily bickering can be very useful in building strength of character in your children when utilized to their benefit.
#3. Hey Mama. Don’t Spoil them.
This is one of my favourite pieces of advice (because it’s easy) and least favourite (because it’s also hard).
Don’t spoil your children. Please.
You will do them such a grave injustice, if you do.
It will set them up for disappointment that can be crushing to their mental health as an adult.
One of my greatest joys is giving our children gifts. But I am very aware that giving them gifts to the point of them “expecting” gifts, is not to their benefit.
There is nothing wrong with the joy of gift receiving, so don’t misunderstand my point.
But there is something so ethereally beautiful in a child not ruined by ‘entitlement’.
My son recently had his eighth birthday.
My husband and I had a particularly busy summer, and I realized too little too late that I had nothing prepared for my second born’s birthday this year. And by that I mean I completely forgot to order his gift.
He woke up the sunbeam he usually is, and begged for his father to take him to work with him (which thankfully my husband’s boss is very obliging and loves children).
He spent the morning fixing lobster traps and returned after lunch for a bike ride in the woods and a dip in our swimming hole. And you know what? He never once asked about a gift of any kind.
Finally, I took him on a date with me alone, and we spent the afternoon choosing a cake and sitting by the water eating a burger.
We made a ‘pit stop’ at the local dollar store, and he chose a pair of socks with music notes. You know what? That kid was a King that day.
I am sure if I had offered him the moon he would not have been happier.
He said on ‘repeat’ the whole day…”Thank you Mom and Papa, this is the BEST birthday ever!”.
He has had birthday parties littered with presents. But this one was memorable and memories are the best gifts we can give our children. It builds strength of character because those joys carry them through a lifetime of ups and downs.
#4 Attitude Adjustment
Our kids have often been praised by others regarding their attitudes. While they are certainly examples (even to me) for how to respond in situations, they were not born that way. No one is.
My parents did give me two pieces of advice that stuck like glue.
One, was not to ‘expect’ anything but be thankful for what you have.
Two, was the importance of ‘delayed gratification’.
When our children ask for something and are being impatient in the wait, we respond immediately to teaching them the importance of ‘waiting’.
We remind them that we do not give rewards to children who are whining or having an attitude that does not merit praise.
That shouldn’t sound unreasonable because it is not.
You might believe that that makes children only respond to having ‘praiseworthy’ behaviour when it benefits them.
But actually the opposite is true. I have seen our children, (and others I have cared for) practice daily the muscle of self-control and strive for better attitudes. Not allowing your child to whine is not a detriment to them.
We always allow them the option of whining in their room by themselves as long as they feel the need. But can you imagine which one they choose more often? Yes. They actually rise to the challenge of being polite and changing their attitude.
What would your boss think if you decided you would not be doing the project he told you to do? Or if you told the police officer who stopped you for speeding, that your feelings warranted driving beyond the speed limit? Boundaries, and attitude go hand in hand.
I know it sticks well because in the eleven years we have been practicing this, our oldest particularly has an exemplary attitude when asked for help. He often volunteers his assistance without request and does it with a joyful attitude. And he is far from an unhappy young man. We have nothing but pride in his strength of character.
Consistency in any parenting method is critical, but we have found ‘attitude’ focus and re-adjustment to eliminate so much of the other troubles parents face on a daily basis that often exhausts them.
For additional VERY practical tips on parenting using this method, check out
Boundaries With Kids , by Dr. Henry Cloud, and Dr. John Townsend. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for parenting.
#5 Manners Matter
I think one of my favourite examples in history of teaching manners is Mr. Rogers.
Manners run so deeply beyond just “Please” and “Thank you”. Nor do I mean being ‘pretentious’.
Good manners speak volumes, whether we are young or old.
They take shape in their dearest form, when they are lived out through compassion and respect.
I don’t know about you but I internally (and probably outwardly) cringe when a child is outright disrespectful to their parents, and the parents laugh it off. Notice I said, “ and the parents laugh it off”. I am not alarmed when children are disrespectful or rude, in the least. Kids are growing and learning. I AM alarmed when parents think that is a funny or good idea to ignore it. If a child does not learn to respect their parents they will never deeply respect anyone, including themselves.
Taking time to teach manners and politeness to our children is one of greatest gifts we can bestow on them.
They will consider others, fight for justice, and feel empathy above sympathy when others are hurting. Ingrain in them manners with deep roots in LOVE, and they will not only be an incredible spouse some day, but they will know how to be an amazing friend.
Progress Never Perfection
No human is perfect. Be sure to give abundant grace. I am not speaking of being cruel or suffocating to children, but rather discipling them, encouraging their strengths and building their weakness (we ALL have them) so their strength of character carries them through a life time of joy and success in their relationships.
Tips for ‘Discipling’ (Guiding) Your Child:
- Speak Kindly, its hard to learn when we are being yelled at.
- Don’t crush a child’s spirit. Telling them over and over ,”You’re so whiny”, “What a spoiled brat”, “I can’t take you anymore”, are never ways to help them ‘grow’. Think how you would want to be ‘trained’ at a new job. Teach your children in a way that shows them respect as humans so they will in turn do the same.
- DO disciple them. Guide them in better ways of speaking by giving them examples. For instance, tell them, “Instead of saying (*cue whiny high pitched voice) But I am HUNGRRRY!!”. You could say, “I feel really hungry. May I have a snack please?”. It doesn’t actually take that much effort to ‘re-adjust’ our instruction, and it usually makes everyone laugh to see mom pretend to “whine” when giving an example.
- DO give lots of grace. If your kids cannot be themselves at home and make mistakes as they grow, where else will have the opportunity? Just help them learn, so they don’t end up being surprised by life’s “fairness”.