How to Develop Your Own Character Training Curriculum
Over the years, people have asked me: “How are we to teach Biblical character to our children?” Many parents acknowledge the weight that we all have for training our children’s character. It’s always refreshing when parents are intentional about learning how to do this. So, below are some things that I’ve learned along the way.
Character Training Is Discipleship
Discipleship doesn’t necessarily look formal with books and sitting down at the dining room table or desks in a “homeschool room”. It’s literally teaching, training, bringing up, and converting to doctrines or principles. For Christian parents, it’s about bringing our children up with Biblical doctrines and principles. This happens as we teach directly from God’s Word and as we model the Christian way of life. Primarily, it’s about reaching the heart of the child. Most importantly, you have the Holy Spirit to help you as you disciple your children individually.
One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we are able to bring our children along our side to show them how to grow in Christ-like character. But first, let’s get clear on what a curriculum is.
A curriculum is what one teaches—it’s that which your course of study consists. As the parent of your child, you have the following duties as you educate your child:
The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
So, in order to teach Christian character we focus on:
- formation of manners
- enlightening the understanding
- correcting the temper
- forming manners and habits of youth
- fit them for usefulness in their future stations
All that your curriculum needs to consist of is the Bible, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, you, your child, time, being intentional, love, and patience.
Begin with Prayer
Undergird your parenting by beginning with daily prayer. A family unit consists of imperfect people; love, patience, and guidance from the Holy Spirit is needed. Ask for the Lord to give you the heart of our Heavenly Father for your children. And, ask Him to show you the value of your child. Seek Him for areas where you need to reach your child’s heart with His Word. This will be a regular need throughout your parenting years.
Then Begin by Instructing in Morals
MOR’ALS, noun plural The practice of the duties of life; as a man of correct morals 1. Conduct; behavior; course of life, in regard to good and evil.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Morals are choices. In fact, these two words can be exchanged when talking about one or the other. And they definitely have to do with one’s character.
It’s important for us to teach our children about what God says is right to do (instructions in righteousness) and what God says is wrong to do (sin).
Undoubtedly, each day will present at least one moral issue. And that’s where your keen observation skills come in handy.
Once you are attentive to moral issues that arise with your child, you can use Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and a concordance to look up Bible verses regarding the issue. This helps you to instruct your child in moral principles.
Instruct with Discipline
Sometimes parents don’t want to put the time and energy into disciplining their children. But, if we love our children we will instruct them; we’ll govern well our homes and families.
Children are children. They’re new to the world and they need direction in life, regulations/rules to follow, to be kept in check, and to learn how to self-govern.
Let’s take a closer look at the definition of discipline:
DISCIPLINE, noun [Latin , to learn.]
Education; instruction; cultivation and improvement. Instruction and government, comprehending the communication of knowledge and the regulation of practice. Rule of government; method of regulating principles and practice. Correction; chastisement; punishment intended to correct crimes or errors.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Mostly it’s about putting principles into practice.
Enlighten the Understanding
What does it look like to enlighten the understanding as a part of character training?
ENLI’GHTEN, verb transitive enli’tn. [from light.] 1. To make light; to shed light on; to supply with light; to illuminate; as, the sun enlightens the earth. 2. To quicken in the faculty of vision; to enable to see more clearly. 3. To give light to; to give clearer views; to illuminate; to instruct; to enable to see or comprehend truth; as, to enlighten the mind or understanding. 4. To illuminate with divine knowledge, or a knowledge of the truth.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
We can help shed light on our children’s understanding by comparing and contrasting good morals and character as life examples arise.
One time we were shopping as a family, our children observed a child that was about seven years old whining and being defiant to her parents. That was a teachable moment we could refer to later on in a family discussion.
Parents ought to help their children to see the internal issues going on that are reflected externally. “Why did you grab the toy and hit your sibling? What’s at the root of these choices?” Take time to discuss it and instruct them from the Scripture. It’s important to take time and effort to instruct them from truth and to understand it.
Correct the Temper
The less self-governed an individual is the more external government (direction, regulation, control, restraint) an individual needs. Of course, correction isn’t something most people enjoy.
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 (NKJV)
The Girl and the Hamster
Once, there was a young girl who would not govern herself from opening her sibling’s hamster cage. Firstly, it was explained to her that the hamster was someone else’s private property. So, she needed to honor the boundaries about getting permission before petting the hamster. Secondly, the hamster is quick and could dart out that cage in the blink of an eye.
The young girl made repeated choices to keep opening the cage as she pleased. She needed help remembering that she needed to govern herself. The consequence? She had to draw one hundred cute, chubby hamsters. It didn’t matter if she drew a few each day until she reached that goal of one hundred. She could take as many breaks as she wished. But, with each hamster she drew it was a reminder to leave its cage alone. That external government (verbal direction) and the external regulation (draw one hundred cute, chubby hamsters) was a way to help the child learn to control and restrain herself regarding the hamster.
To this day, the girl governs herself regarding the hamster cage.
The girl’s temper—her disposition of mind regarding her affections toward the hamster—needed to be corrected. Though the correction didn’t feel joyful to her in the present, she is now that much more of a self-governed individual. This will reap fruit throughout her lifetime.
Be encouraged, parents. The time and effort it takes to correct your child’s temper is worth it. This also helps to equip them internally for practicing manners and habits.
Form the Manners and Habits of Youth
One of the joys of homeschooling is the ability to be right there with our children to model for them and teach them in self-government and the governing of our homes. This is a blessing and is a generational duty for passing on the torch of liberty.
There was once a youth who was visiting his friend’s home. Shortly after he arrived, he apparently was thirsty. He didn’t ask his friend or his friend’s mother for a glass of water. He instead went to the kitchen sink, turned on the water, hoisted himself over the edge, and drank directly from the faucet.
Considering the context of the setting, the boy exercised poor manners.
When his friend’s mother saw this, she mentioned to the boy that in the future he should mention that he would like a glass of water. The boy shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
There are a lot of resources for lists of manners/etiquette. However, here are some basic and core manners that many of us have been taught from an early age. These are ideal to begin with. Teach them to use:
- thank you
- yes, Sir
- yes, Ma’am
- proper titles for aunts and uncles
- fitting titles for other adults (Miss, Mrs., or Mr.), not just their first names
- “may I?”
- proper table manners
A primary resource parents may refer to is George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.
If we diligently practice and model good habits for our children, they will see the blessings of developing good habits. That’s not to say that there won’t be struggles with developing or maintaining good habits—we and our children are people, after all.
You don’t want to just kind of take notice because you can easily overlook issues by doing that. No, you want to observe your child because this gives you the ability to see. To observe means to take notice by the eye or the intellect—giving particular attention; habitually taking notice; attentive to what passes.
Then, make a list using a T-Chart. Label the left side as internal and the right side as external. By writing down the external (outward display) of moral issues, you can pinpoint what the internal issues are. If you need to, you can research the Bible to learn what the internal cause may be.
Fit Them for Usefulness in Their Future Stations
Everything discussed thus far is part of fitting our children for usefulness in their future stations. Their future stations will be as governors of their own homes and families.
Additionally, their future stations will be voluntary work, vocational work, and jobs/careers they may have throughout their lives.
Needless to say, with homeschooling you’re able to tailor your child’s education to his or her gifts and interests.
You may want to grab a 3-ring binder and do a Word Study on the words character, training, other vocabulary words in this article, and Key Words contained within definitions of these vocabulary words. This will help you to further your studies and develop a Biblical worldview in this area.
In any case, an immense responsibility does indeed rest on the shoulders of parents and guardians to disciple children.