Developing the Character of a Child

My husband and I have five children and twelve grandchildren.  I see no change in the total number of my children as the youngest is now over forty, and I have no desire to be eligible for the Guinness Book of World Records’ oldest mother in history.  However, the tally on the grandchildren will undoubtedly continue to mount since only four of our five children have thus far become parents.  Dawn has five: Lydia who is fourteen, Michael and Isabelle – the nine year old twins, and Dennis and Rebekah – our precious Guatemalan babies.  Deedra has four: Cole who is eleven, Hope who is eight, Lela who is seven, and Ashenafi – our almost four Ethiopian boy.  David has a boy named Judah and another named Gideon, three and one, respectively.  Dallas, my baby, has his own baby boy – Alexander, who is one.  I am happy to report that all are beautiful, brilliant, and definitely candidates for best grandchildren in the world!

All but one of the grandbabies lives in our town, which provides me up-close-and-personal, involved-in everyday-events, see-them-on-a-regular-basis interaction.  I consider this to be a special blessing in my life.  For over a decade now, I have observed my children raising their children.  I watch as they regularly sacrifice personal privileges for the sake of the babies.  I am aware when sleep gives way to all night vigils and personal desires are forfeited for the more immediate needs of the children.  I have noticed all four sets of parents seek out information when a new phase of childhood development catches them unprepared, and I have stood in amazement as the guys have taken on the ‘Mister Mom’ role to meet the needs of the children.  

My children are raising their children, and I get a front-row seat in this real-life drama.  Personalities are being molded, ideals forged, talents enhanced, and values imparted.  All these important qualities, which make or break us as adults, are being impregnated into their character, chiseled into their identity, and molded into their dispositions.  All this life-constructing, ego-fashioning, temperament-shaping stuff happens day by day, little issue by little issue, small event by small event.  I have become increasingly cognizant that developing character is a journey of truth.

The main shaping of character is developed on the highway of life rather from the sterile pages of a textbook.  The experiences of daily living afford a parent opportunities of inculcating spiritual principles and lasting values into a child.  Something as simple as picking up the toys in the manner that Mom determines can train a child in self-discipline and self-reliance that is balanced by humility.  Learning that running and yelling are permissible outdoors while walking and softer voice tones are required for indoors teaches that energy and vitality must be restrained by prudence.  Playful humor must be countered with sincerity, and passionate longings equalized with restraint or self-denial.

I have heard it said that if you plant a thought, you will reap an act; plant an act and you will reap a habit; plant a habit and you will reap a character; plant a character and you will reap a destiny.  I did not consciously teach this axiom to my children.  Perhaps, unintentionally, I modeled it.  Nonetheless, I am observing the sagacity of the motto as I observe my children daily build character and set forth destiny in their children.  I am sure that this is, in part, what the scripture means when it tells us to “train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6)

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