While I don’t have a five to twelve year old yet (Tripp’s “childhood” age range), I do find it incredibly beneficial to be thinking about how I want to parent them when they do reach elementary age. Already, our toddler is developing her own little personality and growing independent in her choices. We’ve been working on the issue of authority by having little conversations like who does Maya (the dog) listen to? Serafina reminds us that Maya must listen to Mommy and Daddy. Then we ask who Mommy listens to (Daddy and Jesus), who Daddy listens to (Mommy and Jesus), and, finally, who Serafina listens to (Mommy, Daddy, Jesus, and various other adults she thinks of that fit the bill).
Once we establish authority perspectives, we’re done right? If only it were that easy.
Once she (and our other child[ren]) reaches this elementary age, she’ll have situations that aren’t as black and white issues of obedience. No, now we’re into character building.
A few of the character traits that Tripp notes are dependability, honesty, kindness, consideration, helpfulness, diligence, loyalty, humility, self-control, and moral purity…incredibly important to first cultivate in ourselves before we can expect our children to both respect our authority and emulate our motivations and actions.
This is the time in which we want to work to develop the reasoning skills within our children’s souls, not just their minds.
This is when their conscience begins to take hold and sway them one way or another when faced with ambiguous situations.
This is the work that needs to be done so they know what they should do even if we’re not there to look to as their authority figures.
Children with strength of character or little Pharisees?
If you’ve been working to shepherd their hearts thus far, now is when we separate wrong behavior from defiant behavior. Selfishness is not defiant at it’s root; however, it is wrong. And we can’t just make tons and tons of rules either. There is no way to anticipate every thing for which there would need to be a rule.
I grew up a wonderful rule follower (and still consider myself to be). That didn’t mean that I was a great kid on the inside, though (whitewashed tombs, anyone?). While I do think I was a child of pretty good character, it was more for show than anything else. I knew how to play the Christian game, I knew all the right answers, I knew all the right things to say…and boy, was I good at it. To that end, while I don’t doubt my salvation, I don’t think I had a true relationship with Christ until my college years. But that wasn’t the point! What I really needed is what I hope to do with my own children (which my parents would have done had I not been such a great little actress…):
Analyze your child’s relationship to God
Analyze your child’s relationship to himself
Analyze your child’s relationships with others
If these things point to the development of strength of character, you’re on the right track…keep it up! If you’re not sure, review each of these things and pinpoint what should focus on most as parents.
This is part of a 31 day series of shepherding a child’s heart in 5 minutes a day (click here for the series intro). I pray this series edifies you as much as reading Tripp’s book has encouraged and challenged my husband and I in how we raise our children. Subscribe to the blog in the side bar if you’d like to get posts emailed to you in a weekly digest or subscribe on your favorite blog reader.