Every parent wants their children to do well at school. When they receive their child's school report they look hopefully at it to see if they got any 'A's. But there is a set of 'A's that every parent should want for their child that will have a lasting benefit for their lives well beyond the school ground.
When it comes to helping their children learn, many parents confuse schooling for education. If you have to choose, choose education. And while your children's teachers are busy showing your children how to do well on the Government's Naplan tests, you might like to introduce six 'A's that you insist your children learn: Ability, Accountability, Awareness, Attachment, Actuality, and Awe.
and endurance produces character, and character produces hope
These six 'A's are the components of character. Character is the fabric of a person's soul. This fabric can be weak - torn by the slightest flutter, or it can be strong - able to withstand life's storms and adjust accordingly.
The story is told of a couple of friends who grew up together. One of the young men leaves his hometown and eventually builds a very successful business. Meanwhile, his childhood friend who remained in their hometown has become a struggling carpenter. As the years go by, the successful businessmen pines to return to his childhood hometown and does. The news of his return spreads around the town. He soon catches up with childhood friend and learns that he has become a carpenter. "That's great!" he tells his tradesman friend, "You can build my my new home!" The proposed house is grand. It is the biggest project that the carpenter has ever undertaken. Added to this, his successful businessman friend has offered to pay very generously for its construction. Without a contract, the two old friends shake hands and the deal is done.
As the carpenter is building the new home, he becomes angry. "How dare he come back into town and start throwing his money around like a big-shot!" he thinks. The more he thinks about how unfair life has been, the closer he gets to his hatching his scheme. He begins to reason that this old friend might be a good businessman, but he surely doesn't know much about carpentry and building. He further reasons that if he was to scrimp here and there and use second grade material rather than the first grade material he quoted on, he could increase his profit margin and his wealthy friend would never know the difference. But as he begins to swindle his friend he goes far further than he ever intended. But when the day comes to hand over the newly constructed house to his friend and client, he has a moment of guilt about what he has done but then quickly dismisses it because he reasons his wealthy friend can afford it. As he brazenly hands the keys of the new home over to his client he is then stunned when his old friend explains why he is giving the keys back. "I heard that things had been tough for you. I've done well in life and I'd like to do something for you. You've built me the finest house money could buy - and you've poured your heart and sould into building it. I'd like to give you this house as a gift!"
Character is the fabric of our lives just like the building material was the fabric of the house in this story. Just as a house can have a fancy façade and a coat of paint to hide its structural deficiencies, so we too can put up façades to hide our character deficiencies. These six 'A's are the ingredients to first-grade character development.
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.
First Timother 4:15
Every child needs to develop their abilities. This can only happen when allowed to fail. It takes practice. (Most children do not naturally understand the difference between rehearsing and practicing). Developing abilities involves stretching present capactities, focussing for an extended period of time, learning from those with better abilities. It unavoidably involves setbacks. It requires persistence. Life demands certain abilities and the level of a person's character is how those demands are met.
To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
None us of like to be corrected. But without the character strength to accept correction our children's characters cannot be developed. Children must be taught how to receive correction, welcome it, and apply it humbly. This is the process of accountability. Parents often don't want to correct their children for fear of nagging or discouraging, but children need to understand that being held accountable for their actions (what they've done) and responsibilities (what they should do) will set them up for maximising their life's potential. Accountability also involves congratulating, rewarding, and celebrating your children's efforts as well.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
It takes an extended season of heat and pressure to turn a piece of coal into a diamond.
¶ In the end, serious reprimand is appreciated
far more than bootlicking flattery.
Parents are responible to make their children aware of no only what is right and wrong, but also, what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Learning the right and appropriate way to behaveis an essential skill for life. It requires the character trait of awareness.
¶ For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
Second Corinthians 1:12
When surveyed, the majority of employers said that they would employ someone who was moderately competent and able to get along with others, before they would employ someone highly competent. Getting along with others is a learned art. Parents may be proud that their child gets an 'A' for Social Studies (History and Society, "Sose") but if their child lacks social skills that 'A' means little. From the toddler years, parents train their children to share, to be polite, respectful of elders and those in authority, how to apologise, how to hold a conversation with appropriate eye-contact, and how to show sympathy.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Character is strengthened when reality is accepted. Our children may not like reality. They may not be willing to accept it. But as soon as they do they are best equipped to begin to deal with it. Apparently Denial is not just a place in Egypt! Playing in a Grand Final for the losing team. Failing an exam. Not passing a test. Being told you can't sing. Not being selected. Attracting certain people. Finding yourself repeatedly in similar circumstances. Earning money but never having any. Helping your child align with the actual world rather than the ideal world, will be one of the greatest training gifts you can give them.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
In the actual world, dishes need washing up (not just putting in the sink for someone else to do), clothes need folding and putting away, grass needs mowing, people let you down, people offend you, and you let people down and offend others. Parents should help their children to accept the actual world of reality in which we live and learn to forgive, forget, flex, and friend well.
If you add nothing else to your child's character, add this one thing: awe. This is a deep sense of reverence for God. It is a sense in which we take our right place in the universe (which is not the centre of it). We acknowledge that this universe is God's and everything in it - including us (Psalm 24:1). We live our lives in awe of what God has done. We admire it. We take pictures of it. We sing about it. But most of all we admire Him. We become a picture to the world of Him. We sing about Him.
A deep sense of awe centres around a profound devotion to Christ. This is why children need to learn that church is a delight. They need to see us model to them that when we are assembled in church we are in awe of God through the worship (sometimes despite the music and sometimes despite the engagement of those around us), in the midst of our fellowship with other believers, under the sound of the preached Word, and in the acts of service that we each contribute to the Lord's House.
I don't know who raised the young lady we met in the carpark at James River Assembly in Springfield Missouri. But they deserve badges or medals of honour for the outstanding job they did in raising their daughter! We drove into the church carpark when the temperature was -10ºC ! She was wearing warm clothing - beanie, mittens, thick jacket. But she must have been cold. As we drove into the carpark she was smiling as she directed the traffic. But that's not all she was doing. She was dancing. Yes, dancing! She looked genuinely happy to be serving the Lord in any way she could. That day I heard the famous pastor preach but was barely impressed. Instead, the best and loudest sermon I heard that day, was from this young lady! She was a picture of awe. She was in awe of her God and it showed because she was prepared to serve in the House of God in a way that few would have even been prepared to try. I can tell when people have a deep sense of awe for God. They too serve. If you look closely at our ushers this Sunday you'll see the word "awe" written on their souls.
¶ For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
And awe doesn't stop at the doorway of the Church building - it's refueled, re-calibrated, re-ignited so that we can enter into the world with an awe-full awareness of God and His works.
These are six essential ingredients to strong character that School Report cards tend to neglect but no parent should.