The Virtue Blog

Challenges to Teaching Virtue #1

What are some of the challenges parents face when trying to teach Virtue?   The first challenge to teaching virtue  is that character is often taught in a negative and stressful atmosphere. I think this is because we tend to combine character training with correction exclusively. Think about when you were a child. When were you taught to obey? Most of us would say it was when we were being disobedient. This is, after all, a  good time to do it because we have a clear example of what not to do. Only teaching Virtue during discipline might make it take on a negative vibe, so when we bring it up, our children become defensive and feel like they can't do anything right. Believe it or not, this can lead to deep resentment and rebellion. I am NOT suggesting you don't teach it then, just don't ONLY teach it then. Here are some tips to help.
  • Discipline has a vital role, but it should come after there is understanding and a little practice. It really makes a huge difference! Explain the Virtue. Talk about what Virtue IS not just what it is NOT. Why is perseverance so wonderful? How will it help my relationships or my future? If it doesn't help me at all at the moment, why should I still choose to use it?
  • Talk about Virtue when someone is getting it right! just make a big deal about that!
  • Talk about Virtue when you observe it in the world around you, in the conflict in a book you are reading or a show you are enjoying.
  • Plan a time each day to talk about it. Being intentional builds security and confidence that the standard is secure and not based on the mood of someone in authority.
  • We Choose Virtues approaches character training by intentionally creating a positive, even fun atmosphere. (Shameless plug for our Parenting Cards!)
What could you do if your children are already defensive and don't want to receive correction or even positive instruction from you? Defensiveness is a natural response that has to be trained out. It is a sign of the pride and rebellion that we all deal with as people. No one enjoys being told they are wrong or that they need to change, but if it is the truth, it must be told and if you are a follower of Christ, it must be told in Love! (Help us, Lord!) Many times in my life as a mother I have had to sit down with my children and explain to them the importance of receiving wisdom, welcoming instruction and discipline, and being receptive. If this is all it takes, fantastic! It often requires much more. I remember telling one of my kids that I felt I had done my job as his mom to teach him the truth, but because of his unwillingness to stop arguing with it (it, the Truth, not me) its as if it never came out of my mouth. I was grieved and concerned that he would ultimately respond the same way to it (the Truth) when God Himself spoke directly to his heart. Our son has really yielded over time, but it required diligence and lots of prayer for wisdom. Please pray for your child to have a change of heart toward the Truth. Make sure it is Truth that you are speaking and not man's opinion.  Work hard to encourage whenever you see even a glimmer of change for the better. Don't nit pick. Let there be times where there is rest from correction so your child can have a fresh start. Be forgiving of your child, and when you fail, remember that the Lord extends His deep love and forgiveness to you as a parent. He knows you are doing your best. I hope you feel hope! Can you talk about Virtue too much? I think so. (Can you believe I'm admitting this?)
  • If you are clearly not conquering patience, it would be good to talk about it with your family, ask forgiveness and show some encouraging signs of change before you make a huge deal about it in the life of your child or spouse. Perhaps you could work on it as a family!
  • If you talk about Virtue simply ALL the time, you might wear our your listeners' ears. If you are prone to being excessive, try to pace yourself. I tend to be this way!
  • Character takes a lifetime to develop. Even as their parent, you are not the last person in your child's journey that will teach them Virtue, so that should be encouraging! Don't feel you have to talk about it every minute of the day to catch up.
In closing, if you teach your child the value of responding instead of being defensive when confronted they will flourish more and more every year of their lives. That is a wonderful outcome of their years in your home. If you as a parent never learned this skill, don't worry! Character can be developed late in life the same as when you are young and don't let any one tell you any different! The moment a ray of conviction hits your spirit, you can rejoice that there is hope for change...and thank God He doesn't just teach Virtue when we are doing something wrong!    

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