Building Character


How do we raise kids who are well adjusted for life, who are not brats but are a pleasure to be around?

Parenting happens all the time even when you don’t think it’s happening. Your kids are observing and drinking it all in.

In other words – you can plan your parenting, but often times life doesn’t follow a plan – it just happens and the most teachable moments are unscripted . . . look out for them and grab them!  These are what you call “teachable moments”  while , you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up

– if the first central key to parenting is developing a sense of personal competence in your child, then the next central key to parenting is  “Building a sense of personal competence in them.

A sense of personal competence 

Have you ever heard about the theology called “The Way of the Ant”? It’s found in Proverbs 6 :6 – 7 (NIV).  Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. 

. Eye contact  communicates equality & respect. In many societies around the world you don’t look into the eye of someone you are deceiving or someone you don’t respect (some cultures like the Maasai and Chinese are different).

Every child needs to grow up with a deep sense of “I can do something!” You see – Self esteem is good but it is not enough in and of itself. It will not put food on the table, it will not get them a job . . . where self-esteem has to do with value, competence has to do with performance and ability – that they know they can do something.

And competence training doesn’t wait until they have grown up and picked a career . . . it has to begin early, while they are still a child. But unfortunately, with our over-focus on education, with kids growing up in homes where everything is done for them by maids . . . it’s possible to bring up children who have no sense of personal competence.

In many societies around the world it was assumed that children would be an important contributors to community living. They went out to the farm, they herded goats and cows, they cleaned and washed. Indeed the whole school calendar in the Northern hemisphere was set so that children would be free in Summer to help with the farm work.

So much so that by the age of 18 years a young man was a man – very competent, able to make solid decisions, ready to marry and bring up children, able to  look after his family because he had had

responsibility and work thrust on him and he had developed multiple competencies early on,

But this is no-longer the case today. Our children, especially for those who are wealthy, can hardly do anything for themselves. They can’t cook, they can’t clean, they can’t do work, they don’t do chores, they don’t clean their own space, polish their shoes, or have any responsibility placed on them so they can develop competency.

Everything is done for them by a househelp; they are driven around everywhere. They have nothing they can call their own when it comes to competency. At 17 they are the exact sluggard that Prov 6 talks about.

It’s an established fact that if parents take time to train, and instruct, and coach and inspire their children early on and if parents give ample challenge & opportunity for children gradually a child will learn the inner satisfaction that achievement provides. And eventually a child will be able to say to himself “If I learn well, and persevere at a task, if I take risks and keep trying even if at first I fail, eventually I will eventually succeed. I can do it”.

Obviously we’re not advocating driving little children like slave masters to read, write and work like adults . . . but developing this sense of confidence and ability in the life of a child will be crucial for their eventual success.

Sometimes our kids can’t do anything because they have a parent who is not patient with them, who cuts them down when they try and fail, who laughs at them because they can’t do it as well as she can, or who criticize them telling them how “When I was your age I could do twice as much!” Parents who cut down, scorn, scold their children are communicating to them “You’re dumb, you’re foolish, how stupid can you get, even an idiot could do that, you can’t finish anything you do, you’ll never be a real man, no-one will ever marry you . . . ” and it kills something in the child.

But if you love your child, and you want them to be whole – then

  • challenge them,
  • and train them,
  • and give them responsibility,
  • and let them fail . . . 

and when they do –

  • then coach them,and inspire them
  • and cheer them
  •  and help them keep trying until they succeed . . .

and then express how proud you are of them, and how much promise you see in them! You can hardly do enough of this parents – turn it up several notches – it will serve your children well.

Our emotions help us gather, organize, prioritize, recall and process information which is essential to both health and happiness. Emotional intelligence also helps a child deal with threatening situations, know how to talk with and serve others, make good moral decisions and defend them, know how to articulate their feelings what the limits of personal space is.

Without emotional intelligence a child is naïve and too trusting, or too afraid of the world, is gullible and easy to deceive, and is easily taken

advantage of. Mentally challenged children often suffer from this lack of emotional intelligence.

As an adult emotional intelligence is most visibly seen as relational intelligence – or what is called Relational IQ. It serves you by enabling you to work well on a team, know how to read peoples emotions, lead in tough situations, motivate them, call them to sacrifice, and know how to deal with their anger, scorn, ridicule or complements.

Some psychologists talk about four different areas of emotional intelligence :

  • The first is the ability to Perceive Emotions : this might involve understanding nonverbal signals such as body language and facial expressions, threatening actions, suspicious behavior and the likes.
  •  The second is Understanding Emotions: The emotions that we perceive can carry a wide variety of meanings. If someone is expressing angry emotions, the observer must interpret the cause of their anger and what it might mean. For example differentiating between a boss who shouts because he’s dissatisfied with your work; and one who shouts because he had a ‘dome’ with his wife before he left home.
  •  The third form of emotional intelligence is knowing how to Manage your emotions. Regulating emotions, responding appropriately, managing anger or disappointment without spilling it out on the wrong people . . .
  •   And finally is the ability to use Emotions with purpose : the art of using emotions to promote thinking, to persuade people, to choose between passion and humor.

And as I said before – you see the important place of emotional intelligence when you interact with a mentally challenged child – they don’t perceive any of the cues. But even badly brought up children can have a low Emotional IQ with no sense of space, or occasion; no respect for adults or title, and no sense of appropriate behavior except when they are put on a leash – they can’t read situations for themselves.

Emotional intelligence gives you a competitive edge. A high IQ may land you a prestigious job as a Fiscal Analyst in some high flying company, but it is a high Emotional IQ that will enable you to nurture your children and for your marriage to survive; or give you the skills needed to lead a team, and serve as a CEO. A low Emotional IQ might also explains why people of high IQ can be such disastrous pilots of their own personal lives, clever, but unable to navigate relationship.

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3 Responses to “Building Character”

  1. Please tell us how one who was not brought up with all these, can develop the same.


  2. I set out to assign my 7.5yrs old tasks after the service.To my amazement she did quite abit…washed dishes,brushed her shoes,etc and was quiet ready to do more.Interestingly I had all along thought she was too young.Thanks for the valuable insights.Am taking it a day at a time and am growing,actually we all are.God bless


  3. This sermon is quite timely. As I have been listening to it – with the aim of raising well adjusted children, I have begun to realise that myself I am not well adjusted in some areas as well. I know my parents did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time to raise children of character, but for a while I have been struggling with a couple of character issues in my life – until I realised the root casue was a lack of value in myself (low self esteem). Thanks pastor for taking us throught his sermon series, because now I am able to see a truth that I never quite saw in the past and now I am working on seeing myself as God sees me – to be able to understand my value.
    Infact I see that if I had not understood this clearly , I was just about to pass the same pattern to my children. Thak you for this revelation!


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