Character

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Develop Character because tending the heart shapes their souls.

The Crisis of Character

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 In the late 1990’s, when President Bill Clinton was in the news every day for accusations of sexual transgressions and misdeeds of conduct, with headlines everywhere accusing him of abuses of power, I observed two third graders fist fighting outside my office window at school.

Playground monitors stopped the fight and the boys were sent separately to me.

The aggressor came on like a used car salesman, quickly selling his story and denying any role in instigating the fight. He quickly changed his tune, however, when he realized that I’d seen everything from my window.

“I was only practicing to be president!” he said, snickering.

We chatted for a long while, but nothing I said wiped the smirk from that boy’s face. He left my office with no remorse for being caught in is lies, no sense of sorrow for hurting someone, no display of understanding how violence was not the way path to resolving conflicts, and no care for doing the right thing.

His arrogance and ignorance about the worth of character made me sad. What an example, I thought of   how our children form their values and moral core based on what they see and hear is acceptable. I especially felt troubles because he responded in a way that marked a sign of our times. Our children are surrounded by pictures of lack of character – in the news, in the media, entertainment and social sites. Why would they understand or subscribe to virtue when those in our highest offices don’t? Why would integrity, honesty, justice care, peacemaking, or humility matter to children who see adults lie, manipulate, behave selfishly and arrogantly, and resort to violence — plus get away with it, joke about it, and even find celebrity status because of it.

And here is where sadness turns to tragedy.

Kids see lapses in character, and worse, actual breakdowns that have led to mental and emotional issues and trauma, everyday in our schools, media and homes, We’re in a crisis of character and our news headlines prove it.

The Heart of Character

The good news is everyone is born with a conscience, that built in alarm system compete with a beeper, to alert a thought or action that violates a personal, moral code, signaling what’s right rom wrong.

Remember Jiminy Cricket telling Pinocchio how he could always find the right way to go? Always let your conscience be your guide. Well, Pinocchio had a nose that grew longer when he told a lie. But neither you nor your children need to see a sign as plain as your nose on your face to sense when you’re deceitful or doing the wrong thing. You feel it, know it deep down in your heart. Some describe that internal alarm system or sense Jiminy Cricket was talking about an eye in the soul that looks toward God.

How does the conscience grow?

  • Example of parents is strongest model in developing character
  • “Well chosen words are important, but a godly example is riveting.” Pastor Charles Stanley
  • Your children may not do what you say, but never fail to do what you do.
  • Parents words and actions are enormously powerful in shaping a child’s outlook, strength of character, and deep rooted personal values.
  • Integrity core of character – doing the right things for the right reasons.

Be Intentional In Teaching Integrity

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  • Core of character – Doing the right thing for the right reasons. As Dr. Ross Campbell MD advises teaching your children to develop their integrity by:
  • Telling the truth
  • Keeping your promises
  • Accepting responsibility for your own behavior

Bur the challenge is although everyone possesses a conscience, not everyone’s conscience is the same, depending on the different teachings and examples of different parents and caregivers. And the rub? Sand runs through the hour glass on teaching kids the values that will form their conscience and their moral integrity. Research shows most kids can became set on their spiritual values by their thirteenth birthday. And ,then the events of life, can chip away at one’s conscience.

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Love and Discipline:Keys to Moral Development

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  • Unconditional love is essential in building sense of trust and belief in ones self.
  • Unconditional love means loving the child even when you detest the behavior. Dr Ross Campbell.
  • Discipline is the basic tool we teach our children to solve problems and love is energy that makes it work.
  • Without love as a basis of worth and discipline as a basic of character, then one cannot have positive self-worth.

“Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as the father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:12

 Discipline the Child You Delight I

Biblical instruction tell us to delight in our children. What does it mean to delight? Webster says to take a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment – joy or rapture. To delight in someone means to enjoy being with them and spending time together, talking and listening to one another. Celebrating their achievements, laughing at their jokes, enjoying being with them all demonstrate delighting. Does delight describe your interactions? Think of ways that you can delight in your child every day.

Discipline is about teaching not controlling. In fact, the very word  discipline comes from a Latin noun that means teaching and instruction. Discipline is not about demanding unquestioned obedience, “Because I am your mother, that’s why!”  Discipline is helping your child live with self-control and goals, a sense of direction, doing the right things, not harming and instead helping themselves and others.  From an early age, help your children understand both their actions and the impact of these actions on others while realizing all behaviors are about choices, decisions and consequences. By setting predetermined consequences you teach your child to stop and think before acting. Look ahead ask yourself is this a good choice or bad choice? How do the consequences of your actions affect you and how do your actions impact others?  So disciplining your child is a we thing. In correcting them, you are on their side, for them, not fighting against them. You invite cooperation rather than demand or coerce compliance. This diffuses the power struggle, where there is no winner or loser of the war of control. Rather, you both win. You teach them something beyond how to behave for a moment, and they learn the means and tools that can carry them though life.

Help your child become aware of her own emotions and those of others. One mom did this with her two- year- old Gracie who had a major melt down while they were at the grocery store. Mom stopped sh0ping and took Gracie to the car, calmly and firmly letting her know this is the consequence of all the carrying on that was disturbing everyone around her. Like flipping a switch to turn on the light, Gracie realized what she  had done. “I acted like a baby. Now Mommy is sad. Daddy is sad and Grandma Vickie is sad.” Folding her arms across her chest Gracie added, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore!”

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Parenting For Character and Competence

In the 1960’s Diana Baumrind initiated longitudinal sturdies that spanned decades to investigate how childrearing patterns affect children’s development of character and competence. Four primary parenting patterns emerged which were labeled unengaged, permissive, authoritarian and authoritative. Parents in the study demonstrated qualitatively different approaches to how they balance demandingness and responsiveness. Demandingness refers to how parents use power; it is how they monitor and supervise their children’s activities, and how they control, prohibit and modify children’s behaviors to fit their standards. Responsiveness refers to how parents express love, balance their children’s needs for protection and autonomy, and comply with their children’s needs and wishes.

Research by Professor Bramrind and colleges confirms the authoritative parenting style leads to optimal character and competence in children. Authoritative parents balance high age and ability expectations and demands for maturity with responsiveness, nurturance and support. Loving and understanding these parents also value and reward individuality and independence. These parents encourage verbal give and take sharing with their children the reasoning behind parental expectations and demands while helping children understand both their actions and the impact of these actions on others. Self- control is based on values, doing the right thing, rather than external forces.

Authoritative discipline is the process of teaching and guiding your child to make good choices and to do the right thing. Choices and predetermined consequences, guide the child to determine the affect of ones actions on self and others . Discipline becomes a team thing, a we thing. In correcting them you are on their side, for them, not fighting against them. You  invite cooperation rather than demand compliance. The choice and consequence method teaches the child to make wise choices rather than to punish them for misconduct, invites cooperation rather than demanding compliance, focus on choices and consequences rather than power and intimidation. In this process children grow in self-control based on values rather than external forces.

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Optimum competence  requires a balance of what psychologists call agency and communion. Children of authoritative parents were found to be more community oriented and more agentic.  Agency is self- oriented; it is our drive to achieve independence and individuality, and is measured by the extend to which we are self-regulated, autonomous, achievement -oriented and assertive. Communion is other -oriented; it is our drive to be of service to others, to be concerned about them and collaborate with them toward common goals. Professor Baumrind and her colleagues found children of authoritative parents as having the best chance of growing up optimally competent, taking the initiative – to be independent, at the same time having  concern for  others and collaborate with them toward common goals..

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Nurture the Capacity to Care

The first place to start in nurturing the capacity to care is in teaching children to empathize with others, because without care there’s no regard for anything but one’s own need and want. Caring and empathy are what connect you to the world because you see things from someone else’s perspective, your able to live outside yourself and you walk in someone else’s shoes.

Caring is what deepens and grows your very soul and builds your moral code, explains Martin L. Hoffman, a psychologist and professor emeritus of clinical and developmental psychology at New York University. It’s the soil in which integrity grows and every other virtue.

That may be why God made empathy the first moral emotion to develop in human beings. Around two years of age, toddlers begin to realize and recognize the feelings of others, in particular pain. We’ve all seen a toddler try to comfort an upset sibling or playmate, and developmental psychologists have documented infants displaying sympathetic distress. For example, a child even as young as one year old will pull his or her mother across a room to comfort a crying baby.

To nurture empathy in your kids, and practice attunement, the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard University recommends:

Help your child become aware of her own emotions and those of others.

One mom did this with her two year old daughter Gracie who had a major meltdown while they were at a grocery store. Mom stopped shopping and took Gracie to the car, letting her know this was a consequence of all the crying and carrying on that were disturbing everyone around them. Like flipping a switch to turn a light on, Gracie realized what she’d done. “I acted like a baby.” she cried. “Now Mommy is sad. Daddy is sad. and Grandma Vickie is sad.” Folding her arms across her chest Gracie added “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” A perfect example Gracie realized she was acting like a baby and its impact on her closest  relationships.

Connect the dots between mood or feeling and behavior.

Explore what sadness, anger, or disappointment feel like. Ask your child to describe these feelings and when and where they get them. What do these feelings prompt them to do? When you angry you may want to run away, slam a door, throw something or even hit someone. Help them identify what difference the behavior makes. Does it change anything? Help or improve the situation? Hurt anything or anyone? Get them to identify on their own how feelings trigger behavior or sitautions trigger feelings, and how this happens for every person. You do this by asking them questions, and giving them time to think on things. Identifying these things in them selves is a beginning sggep to identifying them in others.

Give them opportunities to practice caring.

Practice is what makes caring and empathy second nature , just as with other skills. The more you model caring and empathy,  reward your children for practicing caring or empathy and reflect upon situations where caring and empathy make a difference, the more your child’s thoughts will automatically go to responding with empathy.

Expand their circles of concern.

Teach our children that they can zoom in or out of a situation. Where trouble erupts, they can zoom in to what they feel or one other person feels. then they can zoom out to see what people around them are experiencing. This helps then identify the greatset needs, where they can be a part of the solutions rather than the problem.