In this chapter, Tripp look at addressing the “why” of our children’s behavior rather than just the “when” or the “what.” We must help our kids “to look at the ‘what’ of their behavior from the ‘why’ perspective.” Unless we dig in to the heart in this way, we only end up addressing the external aspects of behavior rather than the heart attitude.
Tripp defines character as “living consistently with who God is and who I am.” He gives several examples of viewing character traits based on this framework. Tripp makes the following observations regarding character development:
- Parents should not instill the idea in their kids that if they try hard enough, or are good enough, or really strive for it, that they can be what God has called him to be. None of us can – absent the grace and mercy of God.
- It is impossible to try to build good character qualities in our kids without reference to God.
- Teaching character is a process, not an event. It requires plenty of patient teaching and instruction.
- When you give your kids a keepable standard it trains them to rely on themselves and turns them away from the need for the Cross of Christ.
- Proverbs is a great book for teaching kids about character.
- Many parents are not able to correctly assess the character issue behind behaviors. Many times that is because we view our children’s behavior problems very naively. We do not want to admit the character flaw to ourselves and downplay the behavior.
Tripp suggests the appeal to the conscience as the means towards heart change in our kids. As he points out, heart change only happens once kids are convicted of their sin, and that conviction comes through conscience. Tripp reminds us that Jesus consistently appealed to men’s conscience forcing them to judge themselves and their motives. Appealing to the conscience is critical to character development.
Tripp observes that the conscience within man is always either accusing or excusing our actions. When we appeal to our kids’ conscience, we make the issue between them and God rather than between them and us as parents. Part of appealing to the conscience is showing our kids their need for Christ’s mercy and grace.
Tripp concludes with the observation that kids who are simply hearing the same old orders over and over again, and not moving into areas of character development, will be ill equipped to enter the next stage of development – the teenage years.
Tripp suggests the use of Proverbs as a way to teach kids about biblical wisdom. I began reading proverbs daily (it’s nice how God providentially made the chapters line up with the days of most months) several months ago after a suggestion in a sermon I was listening to. After reading this book, I read them daily with my kids as well. We recently started categorizing every single proverb by subject. The kids (ages 6 and 8) love it. They think it’s like a game. Frankly, I think it helps them to understand each proverb better when they have to take the time to think about what category to put it into. I have also been struck by the depth of their questions during our reading time.
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