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Raising Kids with Character

It’s coming to that season again. Teachers gear up for another school year. Kids check out backpacks and art supplies. Parents worry about affording school clothes and tuition.

Whether you’re a teacher or a homeschool parent/teacher, you realize the responsibility of molding young lives. You know you have just a few short years to instill responsibility and a lot of other things into children so (hopefully) they will treat you right when you’re too old to care for yourself. (You have thought about that, haven’t you?)

By now most of us have figured out it’s more than pouring knowledge into kids’ heads. It’s about training them to be thoughtful, wise, compassionate –and hopefully, smart. Add to that, for Christian parents and teachers, instilling the ability to embrace God’s truth and recognize and reject wrong thinking.

So, how do we go about reaching these goals? As unbelievable as this seems, some of it can be accomplished the same way people train dogs.

Don’t shut me down yet. You may be surprised.

I read a magazine article for dog fanciers which could shed light on child training. Although the writing was for trainers of canines, several principles apply to both children and dogs.

The subtitle of the article was “When it comes to training, you and your dog are what you think.” These insights were written by a psychology professor who also trains Australian shepherds. She cited a study performed on humans and the results were fascinating.


In this study, teachers were told that specific students in their classrooms had high potential for academic success based on standardized tests. Actually, the children were just as average as those around them. For those conducting the study, however, amazing results occurred.

Students labeled as “having intellectual potential” showed great gains in the standardized tests administered a year later. The children did not know they had been singled out for academic excellence; they simply responded to the teachers’ positive bias toward them.

In simple terms, expecting a child to perform well academically actually produced children who did well.

Could this be transferred to raising offspring?

If we expect children to behave certain ways, they probably will. And if we invest time into training them during those fleeting years, it pays.

We discovered this accidentally. As a young mother I read to our children several times a day while feeding babies. Our toddlers learned to sit beside me and listen for several minutes—which prepared them to sit quietly in church. As I said, this was an accidental discovery for inexperienced parents. It also provided cuddle time, a necessary component for health.

Another benefit was that two of our children taught themselves to read at age five. We modeled a love for words—and they absorbed that trait.

Of course, there are variables. Just wishing for something doesn’t make it happen. And not all children will be in the gifted class, nor could they be expected to perform as such.

But to those parents willing to put down their cell phones and limit social media, spending time with children produces amazing results.

Bring children into the kitchen and enlist their help preparing meals instead of shooing them off to the living room to an electronic babysitter. Talk to them while they stand on a chair beside you at the sink, rinsing dishes. Sing songs together. Tell them stories about what life was like when you were a child. Answer their questions. Our youngest used to ask, “Do earthworms have backbones?” and “Do rocks grow?” His curious mind required constant input.

Teens usually talk about important things if they don’t have to sit facing their parents. Working alongside someone in the kitchen or garden or garage provides that opportunity.

They’re only young once. Let’s give our children ourselves.

Your turn. Any thoughts on the training of children? You can share your comments below.


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