Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Business of Character Building

We had a little bit of an issue here the other day.  Princess was pushing boundaries, as all children are wont to do.  This time, however, I was not home.  She was defying the instructions of the babysitter.  It was not just that she did what she was asked not to, it was a question of trust.  Not staying within the boundaries of other authority figures has been a theme, lately.  If I can’t trust her to listen to and obey the babysitter, can I leave her with them?  As I considered how I was going to deal with the situation the next day, I went through all of my normal questions.

What was the base motive that was wrong?  Impatience & Selfishness

What should she have done?  Obeyed and Waited

What should the punishment be?  Ummm….

This has continued to get harder.  As the kids are getting older, the things they do that are wrong are not so simple.  It is not just obey or disobey, they are old enough now to understand motives - You chose to put your wants and needs ahead of everyone else.  You did not consider how this would affect others.  I started praying and asking God how I could get through to my dear girl.  Then, it hit me.  This was temptation, just as I deal with all the time.  I thought of James 1:14-15

“…but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  James 1:14-15

At that moment, I was battling anger and a controlling attitude.  I wanted a severe enough punishment so that she would never do that again, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t the answer.  It would make me feel better, but would she learn what she needed to learn?  I was praying that God would give me wisdom and not just a good punishment.  I wanted her to learn something more than just, “Don’t do that again!”  I wanted her to be able to see these temptations for what they were and learn ways of avoiding them becoming sin.  Then, I realized that I don’t always choose the right thing, either.  I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 10:13

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." 1 Cor. 10:13

I wanted the kids to know that everyone faces temptation, and everyone sometimes chooses to sin. But, they can use their mistakes to learn a better way for the next time they are tempted. If they learn to see the “way out” that God provides, they can choose to follow His guidance and avoid the consequences that sin always carries with it.  What I have often felt has been missing in some of our discipline with our children is that we need to actually teach them how to become self disciplined.  But how do you do that? 

When I was a teen, I can remember times that I had really blown it.  I had heard the above verse and I can actually remember going back in my mind to the actions that lead to my sinful actions.  When doing that, I could really see the places where God had provided that way out.  I could have easily chosen a better way if I had made the right choice earlier.  Using that thought process really helped me to move forward with an action plan to protect myself against making the same mistakes in the future.  

I decided to walk the kids through the same exercise of identifying their choices and consequences using the situation from the night before.  I thought it would be easier for them to understand if they saw it visually, so we made a flow chart.

First, I outlined what the activities of the night before had looked like.  I re-told the story and created boxes down the center of the board to represent each action.  Then, we went through and identified the points where each of them had a choice that could create a good consequence or a bad consequence.  My children are very visual, so I used color to reinforce what we talked about. Blue boxes were just facts. Red was for each action that was not good, and green for each action that would be good. It really helped them to see the situation more clearly.  Although it is in shorthand, and not completely spelled out, I thought it might be helpful to see the chart.  So, here is the finished board:

 As I consider my job as a parent, I don’t want to have children that are unruly, but I don’t want children that are forced to obey, either.  Unruly children learn that they are allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want.  Children who are forced to obey never learn to evaluate situations for themselves and make good decisions.  I want my kids to realize that the actions and choices they make are going to affect them – and others.  I want them to consider what opportunities they have to make right choices.  I want them to experience the negative consequences of wrong choices.  I want to prepare them for their lives after they leave our home. 

I really believe God gave me wisdom for this situation and I am thankful that He did.  I never thought I would be using the business tool of a flow chart to teach character to my children!  But, I pray that God continues to guide me and give me creative ideas for teaching these concepts to my children.  I know that every situation is different, and He knows their little hearts better than even I do.  He cares about their future more than even I do.  I pray that I follow His leading and that they learn what He wants them to know.  For now, I know for sure that I am learning lessons about patience and grace as I see how gently God corrects and guides us.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

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