CHARACTER NURTURING: A Look Inward (part 2 of 4)
I am so glad you have chosen to nurture your child’s character instead of just working hard to produce good behavior! As stated in Part 1, we first have to know our children on a deep, intimate level in order to nurture their character. We have to know what weaknesses and strengths our children possess and how those manifest in the public arena before we can discipline them in love.
What is perfectly in place when it comes to the family unit is that we shape one another. We would not be who we are now without our family.
This freaks me out sometimes!
In the area of raising children, I often say, “There is nothing more refining than being a parent!” To my surprise, when I stepped back and purposefully looked at my oldest, I saw that many of her character weaknesses were a perfect reflection of yours truly.
But before we do the REALLY hard work (looking inward) let’s take some very practical steps in the area of observation. Here is what I did (and will continue to do)… I watched her and took mental notes.
Very scientific stuff going on here!
I started with the basic question, “How does she act/seem to feel/respond when she…”
- plays alone
- plays with friends
- is tired
- is sick
- is not getting her way
- is getting her way
- receives love (we will chat about “loving discipline” later)
- does not receive love
- is responding out of love
- is not responding out of love
- feels safe
- feels scared or intimidated
- (add yours here)
I found out some beautiful things about my daughter.
She’s very socially aware (you will notice this about her in the stories under the Moderately Funny section of this blog). This social awareness is shaping her into a kind, insightful, affirming, “socially” funny, empathetic young lady.
It has also given her the power of manipulation and a strong level of fear/anxiety but we will chat about what Tommy Nelson calls “The Underbelly” of character strengths another time.
So, in my opinion, your first step is to enjoy some good ol’ scientific observation.
What did you notice?
Any ways your children are the same or different from you?
What triggers them positively and negatively?
“Thank you Lord for our children’s ‘born with’ character strengths so we don’t have to start at ground zero! Thank you also for their weaknesses that will drive them to rely on You and on those who love You. We pray that those strengths and the refining of their weaknesses will bring You joy and bring blessing to those they encounter.”
EXTRA: If you find that a child has some character traits that are similar to your spouse’s, then by all means, discuss them with your spouse. They are your partner and a vital resource. Ask their advice on how to respond and nurture said trait. Now, if it is a not-so-lovely trait and your spouse is a bit “unaware“, don’t go and start talking about it until y’all have sat down and had some honest, loving, difficult, refining, confrontation time.
Okay, I’m off that rabbit trail! I love rabbit trails!
The next step is to look inward, to observe yourself.
“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” – Benjamin Franklin
Being a parent is a silly, illogical thing.
Here we’ve been entrusted, by God, to be stewards of our children. To raise them to have strong character BUT we ourselves are flawed humans.
What are we to do?!
I am 110% certain that the only thing the Lord has called us to do is love (Matthew 22:36-40, Galatians 5:6). The verse I pray specifically for me and my Honey is, John 13:35, that my children will know their mom and dad are disciples of God because of the way we love.
The way we love…
- those who enter our home
- those we talk about
- those driving around us
- those we see on TV
- those we serve
- all those whom God brings into our lives.
I don’t want to just be a believer in Christ but a disciple.
And a disciple LOVES.
Do we do this perfectly… I WISH! Let me proclaim very boldly that neither me nor my Honey have it all together!!!
We suck actually!
But we don’t have to be perfect.
We’re not called to be perfect!!
First of all, we can’t be (Roman 3:23-24) and secondly, the Lord knows our hearts and that we do deeply desire to love (1 Samuel 16:7b) even though we don’t all the time.
So, we all have our shortcoming but by grace, those shortcomings actually connect us to God and to the body of Christ.
Would we need God if we were perfect?
Would we need other’s wisdom, encouragement, and help if we “lacked nothing“? (Roman 12:3-9)
SIDE-NOTE: Even if we were perfect parents this would not insure that our children would make good character choices. A very wise woman at church once said, “Adam and Eve had the perfect parent (God) and still chose to sin.”
Well, that was quite a relief for me!!
By grace, our shortcomings, which could be argued are also given to us by God, can still be a blessing for our children.
My children and I purposefully sit down and talk about what each of us struggles in and what we excel in. We encourage one another and praise one another for the improvements we’ve seen.
My 7-year-old is much more in tuned than my 4-year-old during these conversations but he is still present physically… mentally… I’m not so sure!
I also ask the Lord to bring other women/men into their lives that don’t struggle with the same things me and my Honey do. To give them an earthly example of how to do the things we don’t do well, well. (I hope that made sense)
We were NEVER called to be perfect parents but we are called to love!
And if there is anything in our life, in our hearts, that keeps us from loving, well, that needs to be refined.
Let me define refinement via my friend Webster:
re·fine·ment noun \ri-ˈfīn-mənt\
- the act or process of removing unwanted substances from something : the act or process of making something pure
- the act or process of improving something
- an improved version of something
“Oh Refinement, how beautiful, hard, and tiring you are!”
So do we know ourselves?
Please ask yourself , “How do I act/feel/respond when I am…”
- with friends
- tired (UGG!)
- not getting my way
- am getting my way
- receiving love
- not receiving love
- responding out of love
- not responding out of love
- (add yours here)
Next question, do you see somethings that need to be addressed?
Are there areas in need of the Lord’s refinement?
I think I have roughly 6 areas in need of refinement! Right? Right!
Inwardly I tell myself, “How dare you, as a steward of your children, have the audacity to demand and expect something out of your family that you do not put the effort into possessing yourself?”
Shame on me when I expect my 7, 4 and 1-year-old to be more mature, more loving, and more selfless than their 32-year-old mother!! This might seem harsh, and it is.
When I’m at the point of only pushing good behavior, I am not being a loving mom. I am disgusted with myself and I think there is place for that.
When I sin against my children it should disgust me and promote me to change.
(sorry that was kind of a “self-beating” paragraph, welcome to my dark side!)
In the area of refinement, let me encourage you to do the only thing I know to do, pray. Pray that the Lord starts walking you down this road. It’s not an easy walk and from what I’ve been told by those much wiser than me, is that this road never ends until we are on the other side of eternity.
This road has rocks… to strengthen us.
This road has holes we might get stuck in… so we’ll stop, wait and rely on God’s strength to get us out.
This road has cool water… so we will be refreshed for the rest of our journey!!
This journey is worth it.
You are worth it!
Your children are worth it!
Your spouse is worth it!
And your Creator is worth it!!
It’s hard, beautiful and healing.
We are all imperfect parents who have been given a job that is impossible to do alone!
Let’s encourage one another!
Unless I accept my faults I will most certainly doubt my virtues. ~Hugh Prather
What do you do well?!
How are you richly blessing your family?!
You have much too offer!
Your work is valuable!
You have specific, God-given, virtues!
Mama, you’re doing great!!
Now, go to Starbucks!!
Since I stressed that we’re called to do everything in love, I want to talk about how the Bible defines love.
That foundation has to be in place in order for us to nurture our children’s character plus have the strength/patience when nurturing is the LAST THING we feel like doing.
Goodness… have I said being a parent is tiring??
EXTRA: Um… I just yelled at my Middle while writing this… CRAP, SERIOUSLY??!!!!
It’s Been a Pleasure,
Your Moderate Mama
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NEXT TIME: The Greatest is LOVE
BIBLE VERSES USED:
Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Galatians 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Romans 3:23-24 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus”
1 Samuel 16:7b “…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Roman 12:3-9 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.