When my first son was young, my husband and I wanted to find a way to teach him {and future children} to have good character and to live a godly life. I read plenty of books on child training and parenting and received a lot of advice on the do’s and don’ts of raising a child. And, being the Type A person I am, I tried to follow that advice. To the letter.

But somewhere along the way, what I really wanted to teach my children got lost in that stack of books. My approach was legalistic and I didn’t even know it. I was training them in outward moral behavior, without really focusing on what was most important–their hearts.

two resources

I became convicted about this, and my husband with me, when we took a parenting class called Growing Kids God’s Way. One of the principles emphasized in this class was teaching the “moral reason why” to our children, which led the way to looking at our children’s heart attitude and encouraging their character according to what the Bible teaches, not just working on behavior modification.

In other words, I realized it is dangerous to try to require Christian behavior from a child if we do not first teach them the law and the gospel: that we sin and that our sins are paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus. That this is what brings salvation and that they cannot earn good standing with God by outward actions. I truly believe this is what we sometimes miss out on as Christian parents.

I am so glad we have the opportunity to use Scripture to guide our children’s lives, first by teaching them about the grace of God through Jesus Christ and second by “training up a child in the way he should go”!

My study Bible says that the Hebrew expression of “train up a child” found in Prov. 22:6 includes the idea of inauguration, or starting a child’s life along in a particular way, that being the way of wisdom. “True wisdom maintains itself because it has the humility to continue learning in the way.”

We cannot force character and humility and that’s okay, because we want to allow the Lord to reach our children’s hearts first and foremost! Our little ones will never be perfectly obedient with perfectly good attitudes all the time, as some of the books I read seemed to imply. I’m certainly not that way, and I can’t expect that perfection from my children!

What are some of the ways we can show our child the “way of wisdom”? There are two wonderful resources I have found that have worked well for our family. The first is absolutely essential and, as you probably expected, it’s the Word of God! Reading and teaching Scripture to our children from when they are very young gets the Word into their little hearts, where it will grow and produce fruit!

Sometimes I find that I get stuck trying to find a particular verse that related to a certain, ahem, character quality that my children need to work on. I was so pleased to find a booklet called Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Plowman, which I now consider my second essential resource!

Sorry, not the greatest picture!

In it, there is a fairly comprehensive list of behaviors such as Disobedience, Complaining, Bad Attitudes, Tattling and more. Next to each behavior she provides some “heart probing” questions, then a verse of reproof (putting off) and encouragement (putting on). She gives several other Scriptures I can refer to for more on that behavior.

The reason my husband and I love this resource so much is that it gives us an immediate reference when we’re dealing with character issues, directing us straight to the Word! We can talk in a non-threatening way about these things with our children, and it allows us to use Scripture to encourage their little hearts, instead of us just using phrases like “stop it” or “don’t do that again” :)

After we chat about these things, we pray together that God will give us wisdom and character and plenty of grace! I use it for myself too! {You can buy it on Amazon, where it’s only $4. Yup, this is an affiliate link.}

What are some resources you use for teaching character qualities in your children?

Like what you read? Please share!


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10 Comments on Two Essential Resources for Teaching Your Child Character

  1. Karen @ mommyessence.com
    Great post, Jenn. Today, parents focus too much on behavior modification and too little on character development.

  2. Loved Growing Kids God’s Way as well. I have found that it is effective to talk to them about sin and forgiveness when I make mistakes too. It is good for them to see that Mom needs God’s grace daily in her life. :)
    I am most definitely going to check out that other resource. Sounds awesome. Thank you for sharing, God bless you.

  3. I like Tedd Tripp’s “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”. I’m reading “Parenting is Heart Work” right now. It seems pretty good.

    • I hear so much about Shepherding a Child’s Heart. I think it’s similar to Growing Kids God’s Way, but I will have to read it anyway since people seem to like it!

  4. I love this post. The Lord has dealt with us about working on the inner and not just expecting to actions. But it being from within, I love Ginger Plowman resources. I also really like Doorposts Behavior Chart.

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