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 community, it defines a nation. The 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.” 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 instilling character in our children 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 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 of course, but figuratively. We typically 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 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 wish 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 behavioral issues throughout the day, every day, that we “train up our children.” Our own personal character speaks volumes to our children as well. Qualities of self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, hard work, loyalty, courage, perseverance, honesty, love, and faith are the bedrock of a quality upbringing and superior education.

Such qualities are the bedrock of a nation as well. Our Founding Fathers so valued good character that they devoted themselves to 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 graces. In fact, when Washington was only fourteen years of age he recorded 101 rules to live by and entitled them, Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour [Sic] in Company and Conversation. A valuable resource still today, Washington followed the rules he recorded all the days of his life.

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 feel frustrated (which we will), we can rest assured in knowing that we are not only in good company but that we are teaching what really counts. Character.