Category Archives: Character Qualities

Let Them Be Kids {part two} : Our Sweet Puppy

PTS | Our sweet Puppy  

Everyone knows I love our sweet doggie.  My photos are proof:


©janetphillips_april20_2016_web-50©janetphillips_april6_2016_web-31©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-252But we have another little puppy...her name is Bethany...or Beppy...or Puppy...Skye...or Marshall

{THIS IS IN OUR CAMPER} ©janetphillips_april7_2016-13 ©janetphillips_march28_2016-1

Yep, my daughter thinks she is a dog. She eats out of dog bowls (clean and unused my real canines), she insists on "wet food" (refried beans) in her bowl, she laps water from her bowl on the floor, she wears a puppy costume most days, and she is known to pant, bark, lick, and scratch.

©janetphillips_april6_2016_web-50©janetphillips_april7_2016-4 copy

Naturally, back in March on her birthday, she had all-things-puppy:

©janetphillips_march17_2016-83 ©janetphillips_march17_2016-88 copy ©janetphillips_march17_2016-120 copy

She's also been known to eat some dog bones (aka Scooby Snacks)

©janetphillips_march28_2016-3     It's weird...I know. I have had to ask her not to lick guests. I have had to remind her she must use words when I ask her a question (as opposed to just panting and wagging her little tail bottom.)  

And course with a puppy in the house, a kitty can't be far behind:

©janetphillips_april7_2016-5 copy

But you know what...I love it.

It's just so her. She's our sweet Beppy girl and I adore watching her just be who she is. PTS | Let Them Be Kids3   Why do we try so hard to force our children to be what we think they should be?  I'm not talking about being a kid with character. We should do all we can to ensure our children are growing in traits such a kindness, gentleness, and respect. No, what I mean is the all-too-often push for children to fit into some shape they believe children should be. I've written about this before. Other parents seem to get it as well. And yet, others have so much trouble just letting kids. They want them to do this or do that. To look this way or to act that way.

Why not just let kids be kids?

Why not just let them be little? Let them play and swing and jump and get messy and be loud and pretend they are a dog? Having a 13 year old and having a three year old (and 12, 10, 8, and 5!), I know more than ever how fast this time goes.

They don't stay little long.

  • Their sweet baby teeth give way to crooked ones that are far too big for their mouths.
  • Those cuddles we were too busy for are much harder to come by as they get older.
  • The funny little things they say will be long forgotten.
  • The way the pronounce 'sketty will finally work itself into spaghetti.
  • They will stop calling their siblings Enny, Ca-bub, Wi-Wi, and Tatie.
  • They will stop asking you to draw a butterfly and snake at church every.single.week.
  • They will stop calling your family "our people."
  • They will stop dressing up as knights and princesses...and even dogs.
©janetphillips_PTS_loveletters-1 Oh, can't we just let them be little. Let them be dogs. Let them dress up, go barefoot, make a mess in the kitchen as they help you cook. Let them beg you to read the same book over and over. Say yes when they want their fifth bath of the day (and look the other way when they have chosen to use a new towel for every dip in the pool and the subsequent baths...if you are counting, that is no less than TEN towels used by ONE child in ONE day.) ©janetphillips_january2016-7 It's funny. I blog so rarely these day and I hardly remember what I have written about in the past. Apparently this subject isn't new to me. I was looking for something else and came across all of these:

A Time to Say Yes Saying Yes to Our Kids (audio post) Whatever It Takes

And a number of other posts on my old blog (which I need to resurrect!) And of course, there are times to say no. But this is what I have told many mamas:

There will be so many times we as parents have to say no. So why don't we say yes to absolutely anything we can?


Because you know what? I love our sweet puppy...actually, I love both the furry one and the one who comes to cuddle with me each morning during my Bible time. (Oh wait, both puppies do that...I see where Beppy gets it from...)

And so—yes. When the little white costume with black spots was so small it was cutting off her circulation, we bought Skye Marshall Rover Fetch Puppy Bethany new puppy costume. And since it is summer in North Carolina and the temps usually hover around 95°, I am glad I talked her out of this one.

So...can't we just let them be little?

And if you need to release some pent-up emotions, how about this song. I hadn't heard it before...guess I need to get back to my country-music-loving high school days.        

Love Letters to My Children {no. 4}: Why We Celebrate (part 2)

Love Letters | Celebrate2   In Part One of this letter to my children, I explain the first three reasons we make a big deal out of celebrations. I encourage you to read the post, as it also talks about the things that aren't the reason we celebrate (no matter how good they are.) ©janetphillips_january30_2016_web-19


We choose to celebrate (especially birthdays) because:





And now for the rest of the letter...



For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.PSALM 139:13-16 (emphasis mine)

Before the world was created, God knew you. He loved you, imagined you, and took great delight in you. Before you were conceived, God wrote in His book every day that you will live on the earth. Not one day too short, not one day too long. Each and every day of your life will serve a purpose, and when you fulfill your purpose in this generation (Acts 13:36), you will then pass away.©janetphillips_may2_2015_web-14

Until then, however, we choose to celebrate. Although it is my hope and prayer that you feel loved and celebrated every day of your life, we take one day each year to especially celebrate you. We celebrate because the day was ordained by God. By His will and His will alone, you reach another milestone in another year. You have had breath and life for another 365 days. We must celebrate God's goodness—His goodness to you (in giving you life) and His goodness to us (in letting us have another year with you!)

WE LOVE YOUR UNIQUE PERSONALITY©janetphillips_april17_2015-98 copy

With all eight of our birthdays in a three month stretch (seven of those being in just an eight week stretch!), it would be easy to just combine some of the celebrations. Why go through all the trouble of decorating eight times, shopping for and wrapping gifts eight times, making 24 separate birthday meals (three for each birthday)? Why not just throw it all together and have one big celebration?


You are not a group, you are special and separate individuals. We do many things as a family, but we choose not to combine birthdays because we want to celebrate you and your unique personality. Each of you adds something incredibly special to our family. You are all so different and yet all so amazing. By giving you your own day, we are free to focus on and truly celebrate who YOU are. We don't just do what is easy or convenient for us (because I can promise you, doing eight birthdays, all with special food and decorations, is anything but easy or convenient!) Instead, we do what we believe will make you feel loved and delighted in.


We let you choose colors and gifts and food and activities (and pay little attention as to whether the food is healthy or not!) We choose decorations and presents that represent you during a particular year (even if it means buying dog bowls for our "puppy" girl). We want you to know how amazing YOU are and how thrilled we are and that your special personality, with all its blessings, quirks, and flaws, is worth a celebration all its own.



Perhaps this reason sounds strange, but it is a big part of why we do what we do. We made a choice long ago that we would not spoil you, we would not give into your every whim and want, and we would not buy you toys and treats whenever the urge (yours or ours!) struck. Partly out of conviction, and partly out of finances, we choose to not buy you gifts throughout the year. Of course we do special activities and I will buy you small treats like ice cream or a new shirt, but for the most part, you have to wait. I don't come home from the store with new toys and I don't let you ask me to buy you things when we go out.


When kids learn that they can ask, whine, and demand their way to everything their little heart desires, the result is rude, demanding, and entitled children. We've seen it too many times. If we purchased gifts every time you saw something you wanted, either at a friend's house or in a commercial (the few you see), you would be amassing your toy collection all year round. Instead, we choose to teach you the art of contentment and patience.


Twice a year you receive gifts. Only two times in a year do you have the chance to write a list, sharing the things you would love to have. Now that you are getting older and have a bit of allowance, you are able to purchase a few things yourself, but for the most part you still just have to wait in order to receive the toys, clothes, and other special items you have been hoping for.

©janetphillips_may2_2015_web-14 Because this only happens twice a year (Christmas and your birthday), we choose to go big. We don't spend much money on your throughout the year, enabling us to save more for these special occasions. We try to purchase most of the things on your lists (it helps that you all are always within reason!) Gifts are an act of love and we choose to shower you with that love on the days we celebrate you. Your patience and lack of entitlement deserve to be recognized and rewarded!

©janetphillips_march17_2016_web-122 copy


This last point goes along with the point of above. On your birthday (and Christmas), we purchase and gift you with your wants. During the year, we purchase your needs.

Learning the difference between wants and needs is one of the greatest gifts we, as parents, can give you. Most children—and most adults—have never learned to discriminate between these two vastly different things.

Needs are items and opportunities necessary for your physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual growth. These are the things you need in order for you to healthfully grow and be good stewards of your body and appearance, your feelings and emotions, your mind and education, and your growth in your relationship with the Lord.

In case these categories confuse you, a few examples of needs:

Physical needs: Clothes, shoes, toiletries, haircuts, and other items needed to care for your appearance, always striving to be modest (a concept that means far more than most people understand...a topic for another day.) A not about clothes and shoes: We purchase these when and if you lack a necessary item and/or have grown out of things. These are not clothes you want in order to stay fashionable. However, if you do need an item of clothing, we try to purchase something you really like and will enjoy. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India and "mother" to hundreds of children, wrote her supporters and friends in England and said something along the lines of, "Don't bother with sending ugly colors [of clothes]; there are too many beautiful colors in the world to bother with the ugly ones." I agree wholeheartedly. We are frugal, but that doesn't mean we have to buy clothes we hate. It is a joy to teach you, especially the girls, that you can be wise stewards of your money and purchase clothing that makes you feel good about yourself.

Emotional Needs: This one can be tricky, and I pray for wisdom and discernment regularly. I know that sometimes one of you needs just a little extra  something special. A trip out for coffee, a new shirt that you love (but don't need), a new football. I choose to purchase these, though not very often, when I sense that one of you needs an extra display of love from me. It's clear you don't the items. Instead, I want you to see that I am giving them to you because of love, to show you how special you are to me. These are never things you ask for, rather things I choose to give. You've all known since you were little, if you go to the store and ask for things, it is guaranteed I won't buy it.

Educational Needs: All items needed for your education, including notebooks, pens and bags, are purchased for you. We also occasionally purchase books or other things intended for learning. And as I said with clothing needs, as long as we are buying it, it might as well be something you love.

Spiritual Growth Needs: If there are items or experiences we see as valuable for your spiritual growth, we will purchase them. This includes Bibles, notebooks for church, activities with church or with our homeschool co-op. We will also occasionally purchase music on iTunes. We take you events, including concerts.

In short, we choose to celebrate because God delights in you and so do we. May you always feel loved, valued, and celebrated.

Love Letters to My Children {no. 4}: Why We Celebrate (pt. 1)

Love Letters | Celebrate

We are smack dab in the middle of birthday season. With eight birthdays in three months (with seven in eight weeks!), we stay very busy this time of year. I spend many days cooking and shopping and decorating and cleaning up. I am sure I could make all of this much more simple; I choose not to. As exhausting as it can be (and I'm sorry, poor Caleb, for always being last in the birthday line up. I really do try to save some energy and creativity for your big day!), I continue on each year, making birthdays a really big deal.

March 22

I don't do it because I love to cook (which I do.) I don't do it because I love to decorate (which I do.) I don't even do it because I want to make you happy (which I do.)©janetphillips_march6_2015_web-5

No, I make a big deal of birthdays for other reasons.

These love letters are being written so you know not only the whats of our family (which are recorded in our photo albums and scrapbook pages,) but also the whys. Most everything we do as a family has and intention behind it. For some things, of course, the intention is simply to have fun and be together. God has given us all things to enjoy! However, the majority of our decisions, activities, and purchases, are based on deeper reasons and rationales. I want you to know these, both so you can learn more of the heart of your mom and dad but also because even now, I want you to start thinking of your own future families. Great things don't come without a plan and purpose. If you want a strong family, you can't just show up and expect it to happen. Even with the best plans, no one can guarantee a great outcome (Proverbs 16:9). Without a plan and a purpose, though, the road to anywhere will be much more arduous.©janetphillips_march17_2015-30

So, kids, I want to share with you the reasons we celebrate. I'll be focusing mostly on birthdays, but some of these reasons span to other holidays. I'll give the first few today and the others will follow on another day. This subject is far too vast for one entry!

“We reveal to ourselves and others what is important to us by the way we celebrate.” — Nöel Piper


[One note for both my blog readers and my children: I am sharing about why we celebrate. In that, of course, some of how we celebrate will also be shared. Please keep in mind the difference between saying celebration is important and saying celebrating in this specific way is important. Like most things, I celebrate in ways that are in line with my personality, skills, and interests. Your method of celebration might look much different.]

OUR GOD IS A GOD OF CELEBRATION©janetphillips_march23_web-36

"You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month." — Leviticus 23:41 "It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found." — Luke 15:32 "Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; Pay your vows. For never again will the wicked one pass through you; He is cut off completely." — Nahum 1:15Katie2

Over and over again through Scripture, God commands celebration as an act of joy and remembrance. He knows we—as mere humans—far too easily forget the good things He has done for us. Celebration causes us to set aside our current reality and focus specifically on God's goodness to us in the past. When we consider all the ways He has cared for and blessed us, our hearts and minds are fortified with faith that He will continue in that care and blessing.

"Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you."  1 Samuel 12:24

©janetphillips_march23_2014_web-97Not only does God declare our duty to celebrate, He also reminds us through many Psalms and sermons of the New Testament that we are to verbally remind ourselves and our families of the specific ways He has worked on our behalf. This is why we love to reminisce with you about your birth and the years we have spent with you.

When we celebrate your birthdays with gusto, we are following the advice of the Lord to honor and remember our special and extraordinary days. Of course, every day is worthy of celebration (Psalm 118:24), but a day of commemoration is the be marked with special rites and traditions.

YOU BRING JOY TO OUR HOME©janetphillips_march23_2013_web-33

From the day of your birth, you have brought us joy.

PTS | Why We Celebrate

Celebrating your birthday is a way to visibly and verbally affirm the joy you bring to us. Although we make known to you on a regular basis that we love you and see amazing qualities in you, we want to take your birthday to especially celebrate you. We want you to know you are loved, honored, wanted, and treasured and that you are a special and integral part of our family.


"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." Psalm 127:3

When we celebrate the day of your birth, we are praising and worshiping God.

We recognize you are a gift from God to us. He has given us the honor of being stewards of your hearts and minds and to visibly and tangibly represent the love of Christ. We choose to recognize and show our gleeful appreciation of the gift you are. And we give you gifts because He first gave us the gift of you. ©janetphillips_march17_2016_web-83 ©janetphillips_march23_2015_web-45


Part 2 to come another day...

Our Saturday Morning Walk

Our family walks are one of my favorite things to do.  I love getting out into the fresh air, energizing our bodies, and taking to time to appreciate the beauty that is all around us. The kids love it too.  Yes, they get tired and say they want to go home.  Yes, they get hot and thirsty.  Yes, they sometimes say they don't want to do it again.  But, after it is over and they are cooled down, refreshed, and clean, they always say they enjoyed it.

As parents, these walks are a great opportunity.  We have the chance to model healthy living, enjoying God's creation, and teaching character qualities. As the kids walk and get tired, we talk to them about perseverance and diligence.  We encourage them to do their best and to not give up.  We tell them how proud we are for continuing on when it gets hard. We are intentional about mentioning what a great job they are doing. We tell them how amazed we are to see little ones—even a three-year-old—taking such a long walk/hike.  We point out the beautiful things that surround us—things that most people pass by and miss. There are so many ways to inspire, encourage, and affirm children when they are doing something this is a little hard for them. It isn't always easy, but it is very worth the effort!

I really can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning!


Teaching Attentiveness

Now that I have shared why we are teaching character and how we are teaching character, I thought it might be beneficial to see the teaching a little more up close.  In posting these, my hope is that it will encourage you and also give you some ideas that you can incorporate into your family time.

During our first week, we focused on the quality of ATTENTIVENESS.

Definition, "I will"  statements, and verse we memorized during the week:

I used the definition straight from the Character First curriculum.  For the "I will" statements, I tweaked them a little. Each day we practiced our definition, our verse, and we focused on one of the "I will statements." I focused a lot on making sure the kids understood what the definition and statements meant, as well as gaining an understanding of how we could incorporate them into our lives.  For example, on the whiteboard photo pictured above, I drew a picture to help them understand what it means to give our "undivided concentration."  We did a lot of practicing these "I will" statements -- both in showing how to do them and how not to do them.  The kids especially loved acting out the latter.


Luke 10:38-41 (Mary and Martha).  We read the passage, talked about who was being attentive and who was being distracted, and then we acted out the scene.  The kids loved getting to play all the parts (which means we acted out the scene 5 times so everyone got to play every part!)

Mark 6:30-35 (Jesus feeds the 5000).  We talked about being eager listeners and how even when the people were hungry, they still sought after Jesus and listened carefully.  We also discussed how Jesus and the disciples were attentive to the needs of the people and realized that they needed to be fed.

Psalm 25:12-14

Matthew 2:1-12 (Story of the Magi).  We discussed how the magi had to follow the star for a long time to get to their destination. They had to be attentive to make sure they got to where they were going!


Silly Commands:  We played a game that was like Simon Says, but with a twist.  I would give silly commands and if my hand was on my lap, they had to do it, and if my hand wasn't on my lap, they didn't have to do it.  The point was for them to practice being attentive to details.

Talking to others: We practiced saying hi to people/introducing ourselves. We practiced looking people in the eye, responding to their questions, and making sure we listened to what they had to say.  The fun thing was, the day after we practiced this we had an opportunity to practice it.  We were at the school where Jason works and Caleb and I ran into the principal.  The principal said hi to Caleb and Caleb stopped, looked him in the eye, said hi, answered his questions, and then gave him a fist bump (the principal's greeting of choice!) As we left I told Caleb how good he did with being attentive and he said, "Well, it was had told me what to do.  If you don't tell me what to do, I won't know.  But since you told me, it was easy!"

Learning about deer:  We learned about the white-tailed deer and how attentive they are.  We learned about how deer LOOK, LISTEN, BLEND, and RESPOND.  We practiced these characteristics. We also read books about deer and did a coloring page.

Listening Ears: We made a pair of "listening ears" to remind us to listen well.  The kids had a lot of fun wearing them every day.

Magnifying Glasses: Using cardboard and Saran Wrap, we made magnifying glasses.  When you add a drop of water to the Saran Wrap, things are magnified. These were to help us remember to look carefully.

Treasure Hunt: By answering riddles that were placed around the house, the kids found a secret treasure.  This was to help them remember to read closely, think through things carefully, and then look intently.

Following the Magi: To go along with our story of the Magi, we played a "follow the star" game, similar to follow the Leader.

 At the end of the week, all the kids had the opportunity to recite their attentiveness definition, "I will" statements, and Bible verse.  They all did great (even Katie, who is three, was able to do most of it) and they each earned a "medal" for attentiveness.  The hope is that they will continue to earn more medals throughout the year. Getting out the glitter and making their own medals was probably their favorite part of the whole week!

Next stop: OBEDIENCE!

This Is How We Do It: Teaching Character

Hopefully you have had the chance to read about why we are teaching character. I now want to share a little with you about how we are teaching it.  It is important, though, to keep in mind that these are the materials that are working for our family situation.   We chose our materials based on the ages of our children (8 and under) and the time we have available (quite a bit since we homeschool and at least for this year, we are using it as the main part of our Bible time).  These materials might not work for you, or at least not in this combination, but a number of people have asked what we are using and I am happy to share.

Early in the summer when I decided that I wanted to intentionally teach character qualities (planned, as opposed to random teachable moments), I went searching.  I knew this was a curriculum that I wasn't able to create myself.  After searching for a while I decided on three different parts to our character curriculum.

  1. Character First! Elementary Curriculum
  2. Character Sketches: A three-volume book set
  3. Kids of Integrity (an online resource from Focus on the Family, Canada).

Character First! (Elementary)

These materials were simply a result of a Google search.  This company, Character First, creates materials for organizations, government, and schools.  The materials are all secular in nature (and therefore have no integration of Scripture), but they are rock solid on their character definitions and the materials are incredibly well done. In a word: FANTASTIC.

Each of the booklets is just four pages long and focuses on one of 36 character qualities (you purchase the booklets in a series of nine).  The front page (shown above) lists the title, definition, "I Will" statements, and a "Picture This" section to help illustrate the quality in action.  The inside left page gives easy and fun activities to do with your kids (for example, when we learned about attentiveness, we made magnifying glasses to help remind us to look carefully). The inside right page gives a story from history.  The back page is a science lesson about an animal that displays that quality.  There is also a coloring section.

The company also sells materials for Intermediate (grades 5-8) and Advanced (grades 9-12).  I have no experience with these, but if the elementary guides are any indication, I bet they are great.

Character Sketches: From the Pages of Scripture, Illustrated by the World of Nature

These HUGE books were originally published in 1976 by the Institute of Basic Life Principles.  Since that time, they have been very popular.  They are quite pricey ($39 for each of the three volumes.)  For this reason, I only ordered volume one.  I wanted to make sure that I really loved them before buying the others.  After seeing the book, I definitely plan on purchasing the remaining two volumes.  Although these aren't our primary resource, I just love the feel of the massive book and having the kids piled around me looking at all the beautiful animals. Each volume contains information on seven or eight different character qualities.  Each section defines the quality, gives stories from Scripture, and then has wonderful stories from nature that illustrate the topic.  The pictures in the book are phenomenal and the science information is quite extensive. There are stories about all sorts of amazing animals, how they live, and how they demonstrate the quality we are learning about.  I love when we can integrate subjects in our homeschool rather than compartmentalizing. My seven-year-old son hit the mark when he said to me last week, "Wait.  Are we doing Bible or what?  This kind of feels like science. Or social studies.  Or art."  A beautiful braid of life and discipleship and learning.

Kids of Integrity

Since the Character First materials are aimed at the secular market, I knew I needed to beef up our curriculum with something else.  These qualities, while great for anyone to have, are commanded in Scripture and I want our family to see how God's word lines up with what we are learning.  I stumbled upon an AMAZING and FREE resource from Focus on the Family Canada: Kids of Integrity.

These lessons are so incredibly well-done and FULL of Scripture, activities, and more.  You can download them in sections (as in the image above) or you can download the entire 20+ page pdf file -- FOR FREE. You'll have to download one to see how amazing they are.  My favorite part, I think, is the "Parents' Prayer" portion.  It is such a good reminder that 1) We can teach all we want, but it is GOD who is working in the hearts of our children and 2) That if we want our children to learn about character, we have to be displaying it in our own lives.  They also give ideas for creative discipline, object lessons, and more.  They seem to be continually adding to the collection as well.

So how does all of this play out in our home?

We are only a few weeks in, so things could change, but right now, this is what it looks like:

Day 1:
  • Introduce character quality, practice definition and "I will statements."
  • Act out one of our "I will" statements, acting out doing it right and doing it wrong.  The kids think this is hilarious and I love that they are really practicing so that when they get in a real situation, they know what to do.
  • Read applicable Scripture and start to memorize our Bible verse for the week.
Day 2:
  • Practice definition, "I will" statements, and memory verse.
  • Act out another "I will" statement.
  • Read about the animal we are studying while doing the coloring page (I photocopy and enlarge the coloring image from the booklet). We also look in our animal encyclopedia and in library books for additional information.
  • Read another applicable Scripture passage.
  Day 3:
  • Practice definition, "I will" statements, and memory verse.
  • Act out another "I will" statement.
  • Do one activity from either the Character First booklet or one of the ones from Kids of Integrity.
  • Read another applicable Scripture passage.
Day 4:
  • Practice definition, "I will" statements, and memory verse.
  • Act out another "I will" statement.
  • Read the history story and any other related library books.
  • Read another applicable Scripture passage.
Day 5:
  • Recite definition, "I will" statements, and memory verse. When completed, we make a medal for them showing them that they have learned the character quality.
  • Activity from one of our materials.
  • Read another applicable Scripture passage.
  • Take pictures with our medals and activities from the week.

So there you have we are teaching character qualities.  We're still fairly new at it (as in teaching these character qualities with actual curriculum), but we are loving it.  The kids have gotten so into it and I find many times throughout the day when we can bring up our lessons.  This helps the kids identify "real life" situations where these qualities come in handy.  I really love that we now have "operational definitions" for these words and the "I will" statements help the kids know what is expected.  For instance, our kids now know that when I say that they need to obey, they know that it means that they are expected to obey quickly, cheerfully, and completely; they know to strive to go "above and beyond;" and they know to NOT obey a wrong command or a command from someone who is not responsible for them.  So many lessons there!

The best part, though, is that it once again forces me to examine my own life and to be honest about whether my kids are seeing these qualities lived out in me.  If they aren't, I could use all the materials in the world and my kids would not learn these qualities in their heart.  Kids follow a parent's actions, not their words.  End of story.

Five Reasons we are Teaching Character Qualities

I have mentioned to a few people that we are teaching character qualities this year as part of our homeschooling curriculum.  It has generated a number of questions and so I thought I would share a little more here.  Before I tell you how we are teaching them, let me explain the five reasons why we are teaching them.

1.  Character is important.

Character is defined as "The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual."  Character is the essence of who we are. It isn't who we want to be, it isn't what we someday want to display.  Character IS who we are.  It is what other people see.  It is the words that people use to describe us.  Character defines our reputation, it gives evidence of what we are sowing in our hearts, and it affects those around us. Character is important.

2. If something is important, we need to take the time to teach it.

How many hours a day do we spend keeping our children safe and healthy?  A lot.  All day long we are telling our kids "be careful, don't touch hot stuff, look for cars before crossing the road, wear a helmet, chew your food, wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, eat your veggies, and don't play with matches!"  We do this because we (rightly) believe that health and safety are important.  Kids are too young and immature to just "know" how to keep themselves safe.  It is our job as parents to teach and protect them.

And so it is with character. We need to dedicate time to intentionally teach our children about the qualities we desire to see in them and the qualities that God desires to see in us.

3. When we use words that describe character, I want our entire family to know exactly what they mean.

"You need to be obedient." "You should be grateful for what you have." "That doesn't seem very sincere!" "You need to be patient."

As parents, we are guilty of throwing around a lot of big words. We remind our kids to be sensitive, to be responsible, and to be cautious.  These are great qualities that we are hope to see, but let's be honest.  Our kids have no idea what they mean.  We barely know what they mean.  Go ahead, try to give a quick definition of words we just used:

sensitive obedient cautious

See?  Giving a definition is hard.  That is because we know what the words mean at a head and heart level, but we don't know how to actually define them.  Life experience and context have taught us the deeper meanings.  However, our kids are KIDS.  They don't have life experience or context.  We might as well be the adults in Charlie Brown's world since all our kids hear is, "Blah blah blah, blah blah blah." How can we expect them to be something that they don't even understand the meaning of?

By teaching our kids character qualities I am giving them (and myself) a solid understanding of what the words represent.  When I use words such as obedient, patient, or creative, I want to be sure that each of us knows exactly what is being communicated.

4. If you want to be good at something, you have to practice.

As the old adage says, "Practice makes perfect." This is true whether you have oodles of natural talent or if you are driven by zeal alone.  If you want to be good at something, you must practice.  Sports, arts, writing, driving, communicating, running, studying, reading....they all take practice.  Intentional practice.  Contrived and controlled practice.

If I want my children to display good character qualities, I have to teach them and offer them the opportunity to practice.  No sportsman is expected to show up on game day without having conditioned. No actor is expected to get on stage without having rehearsed.  No musician is expected to give a recital without knowing how to play the instrument.  Likewise, no child should be expected to demonstrate a character quality they haven't had a chance to practice.

5. I want my kids to be able to recognize character -- both good and bad -- in themselves and in others.

"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?" (Matthew 7:16). "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33). "For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush" (Luke 6:44). "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

If people are known by their fruits, if character qualities give evidence to sowing to the Spirit, and if bad company corrupts good character, then it is imperative that children be able to recognize character in themselves and in other people.  They need to be able to look at themselves and their own behavior and see that God is indeed working in them, as evidenced by the fruit of their lives. They need to be able to see good character so that they know who to spend time with and they need to be able to recognize bad character so that they know who to avoid.

If children don't know what character is or what it looks like, they cannot see it in themselves or in others.

So there you have it.  Five reasons we are teaching character qualities to our children.  And now that you know the why behind our teaching it, tomorrow I will begin to show you the what and how.  But please remember, what I will share with you is descriptive, not prescriptive.  You don't have to teach character qualities the way we are doing it, but you would be wise to develop a plan for how you are going to teach them.