You may be asking, “who in their right mind, would ever want anything but success for their children?” Good question. My answer: too many parents, that’s who. How? By neglecting the self-conscious development of this one thing in their child: good character.

There is a big difference between allowing the child to acquire their character by osmosis and developing their character self-consciously. Know this: the development of your child’s character will occur and bear its fruit, for better or worse. It is inescapable. The question is will you be actively engaged in that development or just hope for the best? Will you make it a point to say to your child, as the apostle Paul says, “follow me as I follow Christ” or will you leave them to follow whatever influence happens to be most significant in their lives at the time: Hollywood? Peer pressure? Themselves?

Having six grown children has given me a new perspective about childhood and the training of children until they leave home. There is much to be said about the continuing discipleship (training) that ought to go on with grown children and then grandchildren, but that must wait for another day.

For many years there has been a debate in education circles about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of teaching young children the “Three Rs.” The rancor and vitriol exchanged by some has been, well, significant. While I am a strong proponent of self-consciously teaching children early (all children are being taught whether we are conscious about it or not), I am less concerned about the gaining of academic skills and much more concerned about their gaining the good habits of mind and life that produces good character. What do I mean by character? To quote Michael Hyatt, in his article The Reflex of Character, “(o)ur choices become our actions. Our actions become our habits. Our habits become our character.” Well said Michael, well said. Character is the true sum of what we are: choice by choice, decision by decision, repeated actions leading inextricably to the formation of habits of thought and life.

Nothing else can overcome character:

Nothing else, humanly speaking, has more impact
Nothing else has greater reach
Nothing else can make up for its lack: not education, talent, or social contacts
Nothing else will make or destroy a person’s reputation faster
Nothing else can out live you like this
Nothing else can affect relationships like this
Nothing else is more important in any endeavor
Over the years I have worked with many folks. The ones who have proven to be the most problems were the ones (male or female) who had bad character, and their habits exposed their character. Skills can be taught and learned but bad character is like a rotten root that inescapably bears its awful and outward fruit. The problems these folks caused themselves, and those around them, were legion. You’ve seen it. You know what I mean.

Hyatt again observes, “(w)hat we do flows out of who we are. Being precedes doing. How we respond comes as a result of all the many choices we have made throughout our lives. Our choices become our actions.” It is more important to teach your child to “be” than it is to “do.” Teach them the connection between their choices and their habits. Those choices and habits that lead to happiness and contentment.

What kind of character are you forming in your child? On purpose?