Are character building studies really necessary for Christian families? Let’s take a look at some of the questions parents have about this: Why is teaching character to my children important? Won’t it just sink in naturally? After all, we teach by example more than by our words, don’t we?
Well, yes and no. Being a great example is important. Speaking the right words, but not following through by living what we speak is not generally very effective. But teaching by example alone can be rather haphazard. We probably won’t be able to thoroughly model everything our children need to know about integrity based only on isolated incidents that arise naturally. There are bound to be some gaps.
It is important to show them how, but also to give them a “why” which is founded in God’s Word. Seeing a concept clearly laid out in the Bible, and taking the time to study that concept together, anchors its truth in our hearts. And, if we build a foundation one brick at a time, “line upon line, precept upon precept,” the results are going to be more solid.
Isn’t character education just behavior modification? I’ve heard this criticism a few times, and my answer is, “Not if it is done correctly.” The goal should always be heart-change. Our aim should be for our children to desire good character because they want to be like Jesus, not just so that they can avoid unpleasant consequences, impress other people, or be successful. Outward change without inward transformation is hypocritical, and it can rarely be upheld for any length of time. Somewhere along the line, the real person will leak out!
That is why, in our own character education materials, we focus on applying the presented concepts to the heart. We tell people using our Character Building for Families manuals that Mom and Dad are going to have their character built right along with their children — and we’ve had quite a few parents write to us, testifying to the truth of that statement!
Tragically, the Church has often fallen into the mistake of telling our young people that if they will just “be good,” God will love them and take them to heaven. That is behavior modification. And, it’s a false gospel message. True character education gives the student an understanding of Who God is and how we should become like Him, coupled with the knowledge that we can only accomplish this through asking God to do it in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our goal should be to raise up disciples who have a passion for the Lord Jesus, not merely to make them valuable community citizens. The outward good behavior will naturally come, as we address and repair the issues of the heart.
Will character training solve our home problems? I’m sorry I can’t promise you that. It would be nice if it did, wouldn’t it? My children did not become perfect by repeatedly studying our character materials. Neither did I. But we made progress together. The Character Building for Families lady still messes up sometimes.
Every one of us is in a lifelong process of growing into the image of Christ. We learn to be kind, and somewhere down the road, God takes us into deeper levels of learning to be kind. Step #1 is to equip ourselves with the recognition of where our old, selfish nature is still at work and the knowledge of how to overcome it, but the walking-out process is challenging and ongoing. Character studies are a tool, but we must learn to wield the tool we’ve been given.
Are you still interested in stepping into the journey? Please visit us at our Character Building for Families website. In addition to our books, we have many free Christian and homeschooling helps there to serve you.