By Stacey Tolbert
What are the positive qualities that you desire to take root in your own children? Being intentional to sow these important seeds while our kids are young is the path to true growth. Healthy roots of integrity and faith that grow deep will withstand the teenage years and help them blossom into adulthood.
Model Positive Qualities
More than anything, I have wanted my children to walk with the Lord as they get older. I watched families with older children who made faith a priority. I asked them questions to determine what had made the difference to keep their children on a faithful path. The positive qualities that rose to the top as most essential were gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion.
Proverbs 22:6 NIV says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” This requires intentionally teaching your children and modeling the behaviors you hope they will adopt. How do you do this even when your children are as young as infants?
In our home, every day is a new day which means expressing words of acknowledgment and forgiveness when someone has been hurt. Considering others before yourself, how can you think of your sibling, mom and dad, or your friend before you think about what you want? What is a way you can help your family or a friend today? Questions like these can help develop positive qualities in your children.
3 Positive Qualities to Teach Your Children
Gratitude is taught when meals are provided, a book is read, and a gift is given. Teach your children to slow down and say thank you. Say thank you to your Sunday School teacher before you leave and tell your grandma thank you for spending time with you.
At Christmas time, we have been known to donate many gently used toys and clothes to those who needed them more than we did. Ask, how can we bless someone else with what we already have, out of the gratitude for all God has given us?
Forgiveness is taught very early when one child hurts another. It could be a sibling or a friend. Ask your child to think about how their actions made the other person feel. Encourage them to say, “I am sorry.” When someone else apologizes and they are ready to forgive, teach them to say, “I forgive you” and be willing to embrace them or move towards a positive relationship.
One of my daughters does this so beautifully. As a teenager drama threatens to define relationships. But she is always ready to look past hurts and forgive. I am blown away by the ease with which she loves others and puts aside her own feelings to find peace.
Compassion can be modeled by seeking opportunities to be around people who need it. We took our children to serve at a food bank on occasion. We also sponsored children through Compassion International so our children could get to know others living in poverty and develop a wider worldview.
Many conversations took place when our children expressed that someone at school was weird or annoying. We took these opportunities to talk about how they may need a friend or they may not be taught how to behave correctly at home, asking how they could show kindness to them or be a role model.
Gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion are some of the most important qualities we can model and impart to our children. As our children face difficulty and even question how they can forgive or be kind to someone when they may not deserve it, we have the greatest model of these qualities to whom we can point.
Jesus modeled the greatest of all of these by dying on the cross for each of us. Through Christ, they can consider others better than themselves and choose to love even when it may be difficult. We can rely on God to develop the positive qualities of gratitude, forgiveness and compassion in us, so we can teach them to our children.
Wife Step: Look for small ways each day to help your children practice the development of these character traits.
Stacey Tolbert is a writer, Director of Engagement, and women’s ministry leader at the church her husband pastors in Northwest Ohio. Stacey and her husband have been serving in ministry together for over 20 years. Stacey has journeyed from college ministry to being a stay-at-home mom to their four children, to full-time teaching, and finally following the call to share her gifts through writing and ministry. Her heart is to help women discover their greatest potential, as they learn to embrace their God-given gifts, both in marriage and in life.