A Culture of Character
One of my favorite authors of books on parenting is Meg Meeker, M.D. Her writings are a compilation of stories and advice from her thirty-plus years as a pediatrician in the state of Michigan. Dr. Meeker is a Christian and weaves spiritual truths in her writings and teachings. I have gleaned much from several of her books, including: Boys Should Be Boys, Strong Mothers, Strong Sons, and my current read: Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture. She also hosts a podcast which is filled with insightful information and sound advice for parents.
About a year ago, I came across an article by Dr. Meeker entitled “How Praising Your Kids Could Be Hurting Them.” Dr. Meeker encourages parents to evaluate how children are taught to value their self-worth. I highly encourage every parent to read this article, which can be found here: https://www.meekerparenting.com/blog/how-praising-your-kids-could-be-hurting-them.
Dr. Meeker points out that our culture “over-applauds” performance. This is, in turn, transferred to our children. “How many free throws did you make in practice?” “How many goals did you score in the game?” “Did you win?” “What did you make on the test?” “How high was your SAT or ACT score?” “What colleges have accepted you as a future student?” “Have you received any scholarship offers?” The list goes on and on. While accomplishments are certainly praiseworthy and goals are honorable, we must ask ourselves if this is where our children are finding their value.
Dr. Meeker reminds us that as believers, it is our responsibility to pass on to our children the truth that their worth lies in the fact that they are created in the image of God himself. In the article, Meeker states that God “shouts from heaven that He loves us because we are. That’s it. He loves us simply because he created us.” Our culture, however, admonishes us to help our children find their worth in their talents and accomplishments. While our children should strive to develop and grow in the abilities God has given them, their value – their worth – is NOT in those talents. We have heard of and read about athletes or musicians who have had to lay their talents aside due to injury or illness, yet when their worth rests in Jesus Christ, there is true peace and security with or without those talents and gifts.
So how do we do it?
How do we shift the focus from accomplishment and rewards to placing value in who our children are in Christ? How do we assure our children that we, as parents, love them for who they are rather than for what they do?
In the article, “How Praising Your Kids Could Be Hurting Them,” Dr. Meeker suggests focusing on character traits rather than accomplishments. When your son earns an “A” on a test, praise the character traits that helped him achieve that goal – hard work, correct choices, effective time management, and implementation of study skills. Praise your daughter for cleaning her room when she wasn’t asked, for telling the truth, for giving that very last cookie to her sibling – the possibilities are endless! In her podcast, Dr. Meeker has suggested that while at the dinner table, instead of asking your child how his day was, ask him how he showed kindness to another student while at school. I think this is a wonderful idea, and my husband and I have tried to implement this at least once a week in our home. By highlighting character traits such as kindness, patience, and honesty, we can also emphasize the work of The Holy Spirit in the hearts of our children. We can rejoice in the evidence of God’s redemption and sanctification in their lives!
As I have reflected on this article, I realized that many of our TBCA parents are putting this idea into practice. I have seen middle school students leave their friends at lunch to sit with a student who was sitting all alone. I have seen students stand up and defend a child who was being teased. I have seen elementary students giddy with excitement over packing a shoebox to send to a child in need on the other side of the world. Students have joined to support and pray with each other during difficult times. About a year ago, a group of eighth-graders (current freshmen), collected their OWN money to purchase a prize wheel for a teacher after the one he used in his classroom had been damaged. Just last month, a sophomore on our Varsity Volleyball team admitted she had touched the volleyball as it traveled out of bounds although the referee was ready to award the point to the Titans. These examples, and countless others, would not have occurred if God was not at work in the hearts and lives of these students. These students would not have shown these character traits – unselfishness, courage, sacrifice, honesty, and so many more – if parents were not highlighting their importance in the home.
Parents, I encourage you to continue to promote these godly character traits in your children. If all families emphasized character over accomplishment, think of the changes we would see! The very mindset of our society would be transformed. As a teacher, I am reminded that while expecting a child to give his very best in the classroom, his character is FAR more valuable in the eyes of his Creator. Let’s focus on the character of our children this year! While we (students, teachers, parents – all of us!) will fall short, we KNOW that our value does not lie in our accomplishments, nor is it eliminated due to our failures. Our value lies in our identity in Christ, and we can take comfort in that truth. So let’s emphasize character over achievement. Let’s point out the reflection of Christ in the actions of our students. Let’s encourage them to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in the choices they make and the actions they perform. Let’s emphasize and grow a Culture of Character at Triad Baptist Christian Academy!
Meeker, Meg. “How Praising Your Kids Could Be Hurting Them.” Meeker Parenting, 9 Jan. 2018, meekerparenting.com.