The first thing I thought of when I started out to write about the topic of building character was the word “building”. When we come out of the womb we enter a fallen world. The womb is safe and perfect. The world is sinful. Upon that first breath of earthly oxygen, we left the perfectness of heaven and the sanctification process instantly began.
We have to be taught to be grateful, kind, and generous and really, anything good. We have to be taught to say, “I’m sorry” and “please” and “thank you”. I’m sure you can hear that adorable little 3 year old with her arms crossed and pouty lower lip saying, “please”. Maye because she’s your daughter or maybe because you remember this being you back in the day. She wants a cookie but her mom is making her ask nicely. She is learning more than how to be polite. She is learning humility. Pride and entitlement come naturally. Humility must be taught.
So we build…
When our kids were younger, my husband and I found that building character in our children often came from embarrassing them. Not by doing anything wrong or purposely embarrassing but by doing little things that they apparently thought adults were too mature to be doing. dancing in the car during stopped traffic when they’re in the back seat and the windows aren’t tinted or singing along to Barry Manilow in the nail salon or kissing in the department store. Well, they did have a PDA department after all. (I guess I should explain that this was in Asia and PDA means “personal digital assistant” there while in America it means “physical display of affection”.)
Sometimes when my husband and I would kiss at home our youngest daughter would run through with a horrified look on her face yelling, “Rated R! Rated R!” And we would just say, “Nope. This is only PG, my dear. You will not be seeing the rated R.” Haha! This still makes me laugh just thinking about it and if our daughter reads this she will likely have a familiar horrified look on her face. I hope I’m around to see it.
While they sorted through their shock and awe moments, we liked to think that by being ourselves, having a little fun and yes, embarrassing them a little, built up their character. What they didn’t know but what we knew was that they, too, will one day do these things to their children. Or at least we hope they do. If not, then it will have to be up to the grandparents.
Now that they are grown up, these character building memories are ones we often laugh about.
There is a little book (I adore little books) that I loved to pull out as we raised our three little humans. Sadly, it’s out of print now but I still have my copy. I keep it out and pray for our grandson now and will do so for future grandchildren.
The book was originally titled, Watchmen on the Walls and was by Anne Arkins and Gary Harrell. It was later retitled and became, While They Were Sleeping. I love both titles but am particularly partial to the first.
I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord,
give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.
Isaiah 62:7 NIV
Arise, cry out in the night,
as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
at every street corner.
Lamentations 2:19 NIV
The character traits focused on in the book are:
While we may not have followed the path of this book every day, and while we sometimes just slept when the kids slept instead of praying because we were exhausted, we spent a considerable amount of time focused on parenting with the purpose to build character into our children and we worked hard to keep an attitude of prayer for them. I’m of the belief that God is more concerned about the intents of our heart than our actions. (1 Samuel 16:7) Although actions are very important. He is such a gracious God. I am very quick to give credit for anything good (and there is so much good!) that came from our years of parenting to His generous grace in all of our ignorance and inadequacies.
Now that they are no longer young and they are beginning to raise their own children, these character building prayers are the ones we are most grateful for.
Parents, the hard work of building character into our children is worth it. The exhaustion is worth it. Our kids can grow up to be many different things and take a myriad of paths, but may they do all they do with a godly character. Let us be watchmen on the walls for our children. Let us watch over them in prayer by night and by day. The harvest my husband and I are now reaping is rich beyond our dreams. I pray your harvest will be the same for you one day.
This recorded 3 part audio series from 2005 could be very encouraging for you. Although this is a bit old, the message and concept of praying for our children will never be out of date.
I’m linking up with Mrs. Disciple and other writers. Pop over and take a look at what she’s written on the theme of Building Character and visit a few other’s sites as well. I feel sure you will be encouraged in your journey.