Character Counts

CHARACTER. Is there anything more important that we can instill in our children? Character defines a person, it defines a family, it defines a nation. Greek philosopher Heraclitus wisely stated, “Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.” Every parent can certainly attest to this!

Merriam-Webster defines character as “1. the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves 2. a set of qualities that are shared by many people in a group, country, etc. 3. a set of qualities that make a place or thing different from other places or things.” What an extraordinary gift we have. With the Lord’s guidance, parents have the blessing, honor, responsibility, and duty of shaping and molding our children’s thoughts, beliefs, behavior, person, family, and ultimately even our communities and nation. As homeschoolers, we are raising our nation’s “cream of the crop” and future leaders.

God tells us in Proverbs 22:6 to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Character is so fundamental to our Christian walk, in fact, that God gave us an entire book of the Bible devoted to teaching it, the Book of Proverbs. So important was character in our family, that our family devotional was always the “first fruits” of our day. By sitting down and spending time in God’s word first thing, we were not only instilling God’s word and building character in our children, but we were also teaching them that He comes first in ALL things, including our day.

Our family devotional was also when we threw away the clock. Not literally, but figuratively. We basically scheduled math, science, language, etc. to last a specific amount of time, but NEVER our family devotional. In fact, there were many occasions when reading and discussing God’s Word lasted an hour or more. It was in those precious and invaluable hours that God’s word was steeped in our children’s hearts and minds, lines of communication were opened, and family relationships firmly rooted. Don’t be afraid to throw away the clock. When you do you will be teaching what matters most. Trust me. When your children graduate you won’t be thinking, “I wish we had spent more time on spelling or math.” Rather, you will be wishing you had spent more time with your children in the Bible, because no amount of time in God’s Word, no matter how much, is ever enough.

It is during our devotionals and as we address behavior issues all day, every day that we “train up our children.” Our own personal character speaks volumes to our children as well. Qualities such as self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, hard work, loyalty, courage, perseverance, honesty, love, and faith are the bedrock of a quality upbringing and superior education. It is the bedrock of a nation as well. Our Founding Fathers so valued good character that they devoted themselves to growing in it. Unlike the world today, in George Washington’s time, it was common practice throughout the civilized world to devote oneself to growing in character and social matters. In fact, when Washington was only fourteen years of age he recorded 101 rules to live by and entitled it, Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour [Sic] in Company and Conversation. A valuable resource still used today, Washington followed the rules he recorded all the days of his life.

Likewise, Benjamin Franklin believed character to be so essential to a well-lived life that he recorded thirteen different character traits and built a systematic self-improvement program around them. He focused on improving himself in one character trait each week and at the end of thirteen weeks would begin the process all over again.

No doubt, there will be days when we’ll feel like we’re spinning our wheels spending more time disciplining and building character in our children than checking off our lists, but there is truly no checklist more important than the one labeled “Character.” So, on those days when we get to feeling frustrated (and we will) we can rest assured that we are not only in good company, but we are teaching what really counts. Character.