Teaching Children to be Gracious
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2010
Teaching Through Parenting
The hardest thing about teaching children any character trait is modeling it for them. And if we want our children to learn graciousness, we have to make sure they see graciousness in action~~through us. This is the hardest part of parenting…changing ourselves. Anne Ortland says, “Successful parenting means: One, becoming what you should be, and two, staying close enough to the children that it will rub off.” She challenges us further by asking, “What will you become, in order that your offspring may turn out to be great human beings for God?” (Disciplines of the Home.)
Mrs. Ortland’s quotes neatly summarize what the Bible says about discipling our children. Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Luke 6:40 says, “The disciple (we could insert “student,” or “child” here) is not above his master (parents); but every one that is perfect shall be as his master (parents).”
When our young children are misbehaving, we should always look to ourselves first—because young children reflect all we say and do with their behaviors. Before we can help our children change, we must change ourselves. “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t cut it. Good parenting is just as much about controlling ourselves as it is controlling our children—remembering that as much is “caught” as is “taught.”
Yes, parents are teaching their children all the time– whether they intend to or not. We consciously teach them about the world, but we also unconsciously teach them with our behavior and our attitudes. We need to be sure that the lessons we are teaching are the lessons we want our children to learn. (In my book, I call this “teaching through parenting.”)
A large part of graciousness boils down to good manners—and manners can be systematically taught. A good book to start with is The Family Book of Manners, by Hermine Hartley. This book could be used with preschoolers and/or older children (tackle one behavior/manner a week.)
We say a little something we call a “character catechism” along with our memory verses most mornings that I adapted from Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… in You and Your Kids by Scott Turansky, & Joanne Miller):
~”How do we obey? Everyday, all the way, in a quick and cheerful way.”
~God wants us to honor others. What does honor mean?
1. Treating others special.
2. Doing more than what is expected (going the extra mile.)
3. Having a good attitude.
~I have a chance to show honor to people when:
1. I am told to do something.
2. I am told, “No.”
3. When someone dishonors me.
Golden Rule Poem:
“Be you to others kind and true, as you’d have others be to you; and neither do nor say to men, whatever you would not take again.” ~Author unknown
I just picked up a real treasure for my boys: A 1940 version of the Boy Scout’s Handbook. We are going to begin reciting the “Boy Scout Pledge” (with a few of my own tweaks):
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Golden Rule…to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong and morally straight, and to do a good turn daily. A Christian should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Be prepared.”
Things to do:
~Set a good example for your children.
~Memorize Bible verses with your children, and practice them every morning during your devotions.
~Develop your own “character catechism” to practice during devotions (I’m working on a more complete version.)
~Practice being good: Role-play manners with your children. Act out possible scenarios, and practice proper responses.
~Label your children’s character traits throughout the day: “That was very kind of you.” “Thank-you for sharing with your sister. That was very unselfish of you, and it shows real love.” “What a good helper you are! You’ve done your good deed for the day.” OR: “You need to keep your hands to yourself. Hitting is not kind.” “Your tone of voice is not honoring me. Can you say that again in a pleasant tone of voice?”
~Read books to your children that will teach them character traits. Look for examples of the character traits exemplified in books and real life, and point them out to your children.
An especially good series, although not written from a Christian viewpoint, is A Child’s Book About… (Being Lazy, Being Mean, Disobeying, Interrupting, Throwing Tantrums, etc-many other titles), a “Help Me Be Good Book”, by Joy Berry (preschool age and up.) Another favorite for our family is Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank-You Book, by Richard Scarry, which contains the story of Pig Will and Pig Won’t, a little pig who learns to be cheerful, cooperative, and helpful around the house. Other books to read:
If Everybody Did, by Jo Ann Stover
What Do You Do, Dear/What Do You Say, Dear? , by Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak
What Would Jesus Do? Charles M. Sheldon’s Classic In His Steps now retold for children, by Mack Thomas
Books for Parents:
Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, Lisa Welchel
Don’t Make Me Count To Three, Ginger Plowman (my favorite; shows how to use Bible verses to teach character and reach the heart.)
Etiquette Plus: Polishing Life’s Useful Skills, by Inge P. Cannon (use with children 6 and up.)
For Instruction in Righteousness, A Topical Reference Guide for Biblical Child Training, by Pam Forster
Hands-On Character Building, Rick and Marilyn Boyer
Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook, by Sonja Shafer
Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes…In You and Your Kids! and Good and Angry, by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller
This post contains excerpts from the book, “Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. © 2010 Susan Lemons, all rights reserved.