Monthly Character Trait

I think it’s safe to say most Christian parents want to instill godly character traits in their children, and yet where do you start?! This one goal requires every day, all day long, hard work… multiplied by the number of children you have! It seems completely daunting at times. That’s why the following idea was so refreshing to me! It provides a tangible method with a clear starting point.

At a recent Christian homeschooling conference I attended, I had the pleasure of being spurred on by several of Marilyn Boyer’s workshops. This amazing woman has home schooled her 14 children all the way through high school! Whether you are a home schooler or not, this woman had a fantastic idea with which I’d like you to inspire you. Marilyn had a monthly character trait in her home as she was raising her children. She created a list of 45 character traits, complete with definitions and corresponding Scriptures. Each month she switched the trait and focused on it with her kids...all 14 of them! (Marilyn also wrote a corresponding preschool curriculum, Character Concepts for Preschoolers, you may wish to investigate.)

Betsy has also poured her heart into compiling and defining 48 character traits (some definitions are from the Basic Institute in Life Principles), and has included a fantastic list in the back of her Entrusted workbook. See Appendix 4, The Seven Stages of Character Building. If you have the Entrusted softcover book, see the Chapter 14 Appendix. She includes the antonym of the character trait, an insightful definition, and a Scripture verse for each trait. It is an extremely helpful reference! I also love that Betsy has broken the traits into life stages. Of course we are always pursuing godliness and a life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, but certain traits do seem more foundational to introduce to little ones. This segregation also makes the goal seem more attainable!


Stage

Age Range

Focus

Traits Included

Foundation

0-6

Discipline

Attentiveness, Obedience, Contentment, Orderliness, Reverence, Forgiveness, Gratefulness, Faith, Truthfulness, Security, Meekness, Cautiousness

Training

6-12

Teaching Truth

Patience, Determination, Dependability, Punctuality, Discernment, Loyalty, Compassion, Alertness, Responsibility, Virtue, Tolerance, Fairness, Joy

Skill

12-20

Self-Control

Wisdom, Self-control, Discretion, Diligence, Endurance, Deference, Sincerity, Generosity, Humility, Enthusiasm, Initiative, Love, Creativity, Decisiveness, Sensitivity

Apprenticeship

20-30

Serving

Thoroughness, Resourcefulness, Flexibility, Availability, Hospitality, Gentleness, Boldness, Persuasiveness

Ministry

30-50

Public Ministry

Continue to sharpen character traits.

Counsel

50-End of Lifetime

Counseling and Guidance

Guide others in character building.

Heritage

After you pass on

Legacy

Godly character produces fruit after you are gone.


Here are a few methods for putting this idea to work:

    1.    Same Trait, Same Month I noticed there are 12 character traits in the Foundation Stage…. there are also 12 months of the year! One simple way to try this in your home would be to pick a new character trait each month. You can just cycle through the traits so each January is Attentiveness, each February is Obedience, etc… There will come a moment of decision when your oldest child enters the Training Stage, and your next child is still in the Foundation Stage. I would recommend asking God for wisdom. Does your older child still need the Foundation character trait training? Is your next child ready for the Training Stage trait? Perhaps you are ready to have a different character focus for each child at this point. (If so, I applaud you. I definitely don’t see myself being able to handle that scenario too well!) Whatever you decide, you are still focusing on your child’s character! You can’t go wrong here!!!! The Training Stage has 13 stages, so you can rotate the trait every four weeks instead of every month.
    2.    As Long As It Takes! My friend Allison was recently reflecting on character instruction in her home. She is a wonderfully talented, intentional homeschooling mom of two. She decided to focus on attentiveness for half the school year. I LOVE this idea! She gets bonus points for thoroughness, right? Too bad she’s already past 30. ;-) Allison cares more about her children’s character than checking off a to-do list. Pursuing godly character will overflow from trait to trait. You better believe those kids will learn cautiousness, patience, determination, dependability, alertness, responsibility, discretion, and more by seeking to gain attentiveness. Surrendering our will to Christ’s is a huge, pivotal piece of the proverbial pie. When we teach our children to be aware of their character, how it impacts others, and God’s response toward it, the rest of the pieces will more easily fall into place.
    3.    One Trait Per Month, As the Lord Leads This is the method I plan on using in my home. I am going to select a character trait each month based on what I see my kids need most. Each morning during breakfast I plan on reading the definition of the character trait and the corresponding Scripture. We will be memorizing these items as a family, and reviewing them when we have time in the car, or when an applicable situation arises. I’m setting a reminder on my phone for one week before the beginning of the month. This will remind me to pray, look over the list, and ask for God’s guidance on which character trait needs to be next. If the growth in the current character trait isn’t what Travis and I hoped for, we will continue the trait for the next month.
    4.    One Trait Per Year Betsy and her family chose a character trait of the year each New Year’s Day. Each family member received a card with the trait on the front and the family members’ names on the back so they could remember they were pursuing godliness together. I especially love this idea for older children, even those out of the house.

Honestly, I am most excited about this idea for myself. I want to be intentionally pursuing Christ, and dying to my flesh. As much as I hate to admit it, many of my weaknesses were my weaknesses years ago. The transforming power of God wants to touch those areas of my life, and I am willing....of course the next time I see a chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting I may completely forget about this resolution. :)

A few points to remember:

Post the trait you are focusing on in your home. Put it somewhere everyone can see daily. I plan on using the PicLab HD app to create the definitions and verses to display.

Don’t focus on the weaknesses of your children. Fill them with hope! Betsy writes, “We do not get to excuse the weak areas and just revel in their strengths. On the other hand we do not want to overly focus on negatives -- that will exasperate a child into believing that it’s only about what you can observe…. As parents we have to really help our children make measureable progress from weakness to strength in every area. It is not that we will all be equally strong in every area, but that we are continually making progress…. Because of our individual temperaments, our children may struggle with certain areas their whole lives. That is why we help them see that each characteristic links a godly trait to an opposite sinful inclination. When they see that they can choose to direct their energy toward either end of the spectrum, we have the opportunity to inspire them to move toward living a life surrendered to the Holy Spirit and to bear the good fruit of this decision. Any weakness a child has can be redirected to be a great strength in his life if he truly grasps this spiritual truth, submits to the clear direction of God and His Word, and diligently applies himself.” (Entrusted with a Child’s Heart, p. 433)

Make it fun! As you are teaching your children the traits and the verses, put them to motion! You may also choose to do role-playing scenarios as a family. Show examples of people who are generous, and people who are stingy, and so on. Role-playing is powerful, especially for young children! As you watch movies, point out the traits you see. Reward your kids for noticing them on their own! Really reward your kids for recognizing great character in each other!

Look at the heart! One of the most refreshing statements in Scripture for me is 1 Samuel 16:7b “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Let’s commit to reflect our Heavenly Father in this as we guide our children. Encourage the child who tries. Focus on the progress. “For in due time we will reap a harvest!”

Posted on July 22, 2015 and filed under Building Your Family.