Raising Children in a messed up world- Building great Character

 Part 1- Building Character

Character is like a tree and reputation is like a shadow, the shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. Abraham Lincoln

The other night we sat listening to Isabel at the dinner table as she shared stories about school. She has been learning about bullying and the harm done when someone gets bullied. So she shared with us a youtube video she watched in class about a kid who was being bullied, and we had a long discussion about it. Some of the comments were horrible. I was thankful for my daughters’ tender heart.

I was thinking about this in the realm of raising good kids in a messed up world.  We live in a world where kids viciously make fun of others based on looks, taste in clothes, weaknesses, differences, hobbies, choices, and sometimes pain.  I don’t understand the heart of those who can be so vicious with their words, but our schools and our world are full of people capable of saying and doing vicious things to others.

We live in a culture that promotes self-indulgence and self-gratification where many belief systems are promoted, and traditional Christian values aren’t necessarily accepted anymore.  We look around and we see those who are hungry for power and those who are lazy.  We see and hear so much that finding the path that leads to honesty, respect, humility, honor, integrity, love and compassion can be difficult.

So how do we as parents develop moral, ethical and spiritual qualities in our children that will help them develop great character in this world?

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1

I researched the lives of several famous people who inspired others because of their great works, character and the ability to overcome difficulties and defend the oppressed.  Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandala, Rosa Parks, and Abraham Lincoln are just a few that I read about.  I think most people would agree that these people have an amazing character and reputation that famously inspired others.

What was the key to building their character?

What I learned in their stories was that each of them was raised in situations where they suffered loss.  Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandala both lost a father in their youth, and Abraham Lincoln lost his mother as teenager.  Rosa Parks’ parents separated and divorced and she was raised on her grandparent’s farm.  Through their pain in life, each of these people overcame their difficult situations choosing a life of great honor, courage and great compassion for others.  They all suffered hardship, witnessed death, and dealt with the ugliness of humanity.   Here are a few quotes that I love.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks

“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

How do we raise children with great character who possess the ability to overcome life’s battles?

Raising children with great character doesn’t seem to happen in an insolated environment.  Great character is often developed through hard work, difficult and painful times, good and bad experiences and with a big view of the world.  It’s easy to want to shield our kids from pain and the ugliness of the world, but in this life, we need to equip them to handle difficulties, not run from them.  We need to be willing to look at the world, as it is, and have honest discussions with our children about difficult subjects.  Most importantly, we must realize we have tremendous power to transmit our values to our children.  Our choices and decisions, our behavior, our attitudes, our beliefs and our language, will impact our children in a powerful way.  Are we truthful, honest, humble, respectable, compassionate and loving?

When I looked at these famous, inspirational people, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela (who still lives), there are some qualities that seem to be a common thread within these great people of outstanding character.  All of them had a heart of compassion with an ability to sacrificially love others.  They gave their lives to serve for the greater good.  Judgment was not in their voice… but justice was.  They were brave in their circumstances.  They were wise, earning the respect of others.  Each suffered for what they believed.  What do we need to do to develop and nurture this into our children?

Each person must live their life as a model for others. – Rosa Parks

What are your thoughts on developing good character in children?

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