Character Building

My 8-year old had a rough day several months back. I suppose that “rough” is a relative term. What happened in his little, innocent life might be a cakewalk for some. But, not to him. He was playing outside with some of the kids from our neighborhood. Typically, they do boy things and get along fairly well. Until, that is, one boy began name-calling. And my son joined in. If you’ve ever been the recipient of name-calling, which I’m betting you have at some point in your life, the last thing you want to hear is that your child is following down that road. So, I did what I thought was right and made him face the consequences of his actions. I made him apologize. Now before you call the ACLU because I actually made my child do something he didn’t want to do, hear me out. When he was a toddler, we felt it was vital to his character development to learn responsibility for his actions. We taught him three steps in this process:

Confess wrongdoing – Apologize – Ask for forgiveness

We sat him down and explained what we felt he did wrong with his friend that afternoon. Our biggest goal in this conversation was to help him empathize. As we explained how it must have felt for his friend, his heart began to break and tears began to fall down his sweet, little face. Both my husband and I were pleased to see that his little heart was growing tender for his friend. But we took it one step further. We had him write an apology letter to his friend. It said:

I’m sorry I called you names. Please fergiv.

As he walked across the street to deliver this letter, he was crying. He was embarrassed and didn’t know what his friend would think about him. He certainly didn’t want him to laugh at him for crying. So he wiped his face, rang the doorbell and gave the note to his friend. The next day they were playing together. If you want to create a responsible adult, I believe that one of the most important ways to accomplish this is to make the individual accept responsibility for his/her actions. Too many people in our society live in the victim mindset that says, “It’s not my fault”. My husband and I have no desire to see our sons fall into that trap so we started with them very young. I don’t know about you but it absolutely drives me crazy when I hear a “sorry” as someone is rolling his/her eyes at me. Hello? Are you really sorry? Or are you sorry you got busted? That’s what I thought. I believe there is a huge difference in feeling sorrow because you got caught and having a broken spirit. To feel sorrow over being caught is a reaction to someone’s actions and may not have ever appeared had the person not been exposed. When a person is truly broken over his/her sin, oftentimes it happens whether the person was caught or not. My two cents? Take responsibility for your actions and mean it when you apologize. Don’t make excuses for why you did something. If you’re wrong, admit it, learn from it and move on. If you are a parent, take every opportunity you have to instill character in your children. You and I have limited time on this earth to help our children be responsible, healthy individuals. There’s too much at stake. We can’t let them down.

19 thoughts on “Character Building”

  1. How sweet is that.

    I would love to be able to do this with my kids I am just not sure how. I try but seem to fall short. Where do I start? How to I embrace this? Is it more than being an example?

  2. I’ve taught myself to only say sorry when I really am sorry. I’ll own up to what I’ve done, but I’m not always sorry. I know, I’m working on being broken inside when I do something wrong, but sometimes, I’m just not sorry–I’m more sorry I got caught. But I am definitely working on it. Thanks for the insight! I need to remember that for when I’m older and raising kids on my own.

  3. great post!

    two thoughts came to mind:

    – apologies need to be borne out of a Godly sorrow

    – repentance often comes only when we are miserable in the sin

    be well!

  4. Have you ever heard…I am sorry that you got hurt by what I have done? basically…What I did was okay…but it was your choice to be hurt or not! THIS ATTITUDE DRIVES ME NUTS and many Christians carry around this type of vibe! Yuck!

    I was raised differently… to say… “sorry” If I walked wrong…not healthy…but I have learned through life experience that there is a healthy line between taking responsibility and being a martyr.

    (“SORRY” for the long post! 🙂 Ha! Ha!)

  5. Great post! This reminds me of a story about personal responsibility. A couple I’m friends with started teaching their son at a very young age (2-2.5yo at the time) that actions have consequences. One night he was throwing his fork on the floor and the dad said “If you choose to throw your fork, you are choosing to lose your fork.” The boy threw his fork again, Dad took it away, the son cried and Dad said “I’m sorry, but you made a bad choice.”

    Because the little boy was angry, he started throwing his food. Calmly, Dad explained, “If you choose to throw your food, you are choosing to lose your food.” The boy continued, Dad took away the food, and told the son he’d made a bad choice. In his increasing anger and frustration, the little boy picked up his sippy cup and threw it on the floor. Almost immediately after doing so (and before Dad could say anything), the little boy smacked his hand against his forehead and said woefully “Another bad choice”.

    My friend (the dad) told me it was all he could do to keep from busting out laughing…yet he was pleased because he knew the son was learning that actions have consequences.

    Glad to see you are raising responsible young men. They are the future!

  6. Stacey – I’ll email you about your questions.
    Mandy – Thanks for your honesty. Stay tuned to next week’s posts about brokenness.
    Robin – ah, thanks. Blush.
    JC – True. I pray we can continue to do it in the world we live.
    John – As always, I appreciate your thoughts.
    Jenn – My personal favorite is, “Well, I’m sorry IF I hurt your feelings.” Don’t be conditional. Just say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” And be done with it!

  7. Cindy-

    Wow, it’s amazing how your posts have been right aligned with what’s going on with my life right now. Thank you for sharing the things God is teaching/ have taught you through your life. The lessons you are teaching your kids are so valuable and will make a difference in their future.


  8. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I hope to be able to raise them properly as you’re doing.

    I am amazed at what parents nowadays let their kids get away with, and then they wonder what happened to their ‘little babies?’

  9. Yup, train them up right sista! I’ve made my girls apologize too. Then I “made” them pray with me to ask Jesus for forgiveness too. It was a sweet moment. I’m thinkin’ I could do that more often!

  10. I was brought up to say, “I was wrong to call you a poopy-diaper-head. I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings. Will you please forgive me?” We’ve taught our kids the same thing, and we insist that they properly apologize. When pointing out their sinful behavior, we always go directly to the Scriptures and show them both WHAT is wrong and WHY. The above example falls under Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

    GOOD FOR YOU for training your children in the ways of righteousness! May you be blessed!

  11. You’d sell his car too if you found booze under the seat wouldn’t you? =)

    (If you didn’t get that joke, let me know and I’ll link you the news story!)

  12. You are great parents. How precious that Noah was broken. God loves when we are truly broken before Him…

  13. Cindy, you guys are doing an amazing job!

    To Jenn’s comments, we need to teach our children that they have a choice to be hurt by others or to live in the JOY of the Lord. People that hurt us won’t always see their wrong (if they weren’t raised by the Beall’s) and we have a choice – to live in rejection/hurt or joy…

    I mentor a teen that felt rejected her WHOLE life by her parents, but they didn’t know. She lived at Mercy Ministries of Am. for 6 months getting healing from this. She told me that she learned that she may have felt rejected, but she had a choice to not live out of her emotions – she didn’t have to choose rejection….WOW! I wish I had a TINY clue of this when I was young!

    We shouldn’t be so easily offended. Everything I have learned from her is the EXACT opposite of what I had learned to date! I will post is eventually when I get is all written – if you want to know.

    Duet. 30:19

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