The Worthy Work of Character Formation


A wise friend with whom I often discuss motherhood and ambition wrote me:

I was thinking this morning about the decision to let someone else shape your child. As you well know, we don’t get to pick our children’s personalities, but we do get to, are responsible to, shape the character that controls the expression of that God given personality. That is the “train up a child” responsibility we’re given! Not a lot of character gets built after the 5 pm melt-down (well, maybe your character at that point, but not the child’s.) 🙂

One of the privileges of raising our own children is that we do indeed have the most influence in the shaping of their character. Of course there are no guarantees—children still make their own decisions—but rather than wondering what our kids are being influenced to do, even by the sweetest of nannies, we get to be the ones shaping their lives. My own children have four very different personalities, so my husband and I aren’t able to do one-size-fits-all parenting. We need to gently reprove our sensitive soul, provide firm direction for our people-pleaser/follower, train our spirited child to take charge of her emotions, etc. I still remember my own mother patiently working me out of emotional outbursts, and, a few years later, praying with me that I would not be controlled by my emotions. What a foundation she was laying for my life! I still am a very emotional person, but I’ve learned to hold the reigns of those emotions.

Although my kids have four different personalities, they all reach the fatigue point by the dinner hour. I do my best to promote a positive atmosphere for Daddy to come home to, but the reality is that sometimes my husband calls me from the road and can’t even hear what I’m making for dinner because two children are screaming right next to the phone. I am almost always frazzled and too often cranky by the time everyone is sitting at the dinner table, and the kids are worse. Most days, he does not get to see our children at their best. And honestly, are any of us at our best by 5 pm? For working parents who desire to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the dinner-to-bedtime window is the main chance they get, unless somehow they manage to have calm family weekends without errands, soccer games, birthday parties, church, exercise, or play dates. My friend is absolutely right that those hours are a very difficult time to cram in all the character shaping we want to do with our children.  This work of character formation is hard enough for me, and I’m plugging away at it from breakfast ’til bedtime!  Next time someone asks what you do all day with your little ones, remember that your are shepherding their precious personalities.  Though mostly intangible, it’s a beautiful and worthy work!

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