When the kids are whiny and ungrateful.

When the kids are fighting and unforgiving.

When we want to teach good habits like diligence, obedience, good attitudes but don’t know where to start.

I’ve been there. Likely you have too.
And when I was reflecting on my post topic, “practical advice for character building moments”, I just couldn’t write last night. And then, as I prayed about and pondered the topic again this morning, I realized my focus had changed.

I’m not an expert on child-rearing. And I don’t want to come across as though I have all the answers. Originally I was going to share specific examples and while I will give two examples, I want to just encourage you with some practical things that we can be looking for as we rely on God’s grace for those character-building moments.

character building for kids according to the Bible

Biblical Characteristics Formed in Our Children Through the Spirit

  • The Fruits of the Spirit, as found in Galatians 5:22-23 {But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. NASB}
  • Wisdom, as found in James 1:5 {If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. NASB}
  • Obedience, as in the example of Psalm 128:1 {Blessed are all who fear (revere) the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him.}
  • Repentance and contrition, as referenced in Psalm 51. The whole psalm is wonderful but I will share verse 17 here: {The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.}

Can I refresh you with the truth that these Godly characteristics are imparted by the Holy Spirit? While our efforts certain help teach and guide our children in the “wisdom and knowledge of God”, the fact that the Lord works these fruits in them is a great encouragement to us!

We don’t have to rely on ourselves, we can rely on God! This gives me much relief as a mother :) Pray over your children using these or other verses on the same topics. God loves to communicate with us!

Some Tips for Character Training

  • When correcting your kids, exhort them not only to “put off” the bad behavior, but also to “put on” good character qualities {see Colossians 3:12-17 for some great examples!}
  • Encourage your children to love one another, forgive one another and to regard others as better than themselves. These are all great Biblical qualities that God desires to see in us as His people.
  • Don’t be too legalistic, keeping in mind that teaching character is about more than just good moral behavior. There are right and wrong motives for what we do as parents!
  • Direct your children in the act of forgiveness. Sometimes when they are young, it is a patterned behavior that we have them repeat, all the while praying that they would be transformed to love one another from a pure heart! {1 Peter 1:22}
  • Allow the emphasis to be on the work of the Spirit, making sure we share with our children that God loves them because of the work of Christ on the cross, not because they are “good people” or because they “try really hard”. We want our children to be motivated by thankfulness and love for God and others instead of feeling compelled to make sure they please us and God. The combination of both the law {what we must do in which we realize we always fall short} and the gospel {the mercy and forgiveness of God–the good news!} is what brings repentance and a desire to live with character!
  • Praise them when they do right! This is something I forget to do often, but it is healthy to recognize our children when they show kindness, obedience, wisdom or any other growth in character!

Two Specific, Practical Examples of Teaching Character

Before I give these illustrations, let me say that I don’t do things right all the time. No one does. So if you had any delusions of grandeur about my house always being in order, please put them to rest :)

Let’s take our opening lines and use them as examples! For instance, if the 4 and 7 year old are being whiny, we address it every time, asking them to speak to us in a pleasant tone. We remind them that “pleasant words are like honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24 Then we have them ask or say the same thing again in a better tone until we get to the point where it is satisfactory.

If we catch it each time, it begins to get easier, rather than ignoring their whining for a few days and then trying in vain to get them to respond nicely for a day or two and then giving up. Yes, there will be times in life when we lose our focus, but what’s great is that God is so forgiving and loving and will give us the grace to start again and our kids the resiliency to bounce back!

If the children are fighting, we address the fighting by calling them over to us and looking them in the eye. We talk about it and often read the Wise Words for Moms chart {I’ll share more about that tomorrow} to talk about some Bible verses that relate to the situation. When we ask them to forgive each other, we have them do three things:

  • Look each other in the eye and say “I apologize for….” clearly and in a nice voice.
  • Ask for forgiveness.
  • Hug and receive or give the forgiveness.

This really helps and even though they do it grudgingly many times, it puts in their minds the idea of what forgiveness really is and that we forgive even when the other person doesn’t deserve it.

Your turn! Share your advice for those character-building moments. How do you address fighting, whining and anger? I’d love to hear your advice. Your questions are welcome too if you have something specific you’re dealing with. 

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