From a Mom Who has been There

It’s a lament that I have heard too many times to count.

My child is going off to college, and I’m scared to death because I have heard how many kids fall off the deep end after they leave home.

Tim and I have sent four kids off to college, and I never once had that thought. Maybe I should have been more worried, but I wasn’t. Maybe I was in denial, but I don’t think so. Maybe I was so glad to have one less kid to pick up after, but hey, I still have a husband. I was excited for them to try their wings and actually put into practice what we had been teaching them when they went off to college.

Some parents can’t cut the apron strings when their kids leave because of their fear and trepidation. They become helicopter parents, hovering within a text or phone conversation away — calling them when it is time to get up, texting to remind them of a paper that is due, and asking them where they are, what they’re doing, and who they are with. Kind of like a virtual Holy Spirit. Obviously, these parents have no confidence in their children or, for that matter, in their own parenting efforts to prepare them for independence.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not bragging — at all. The only parenting experts out there are people who have no kids. We are not perfect parents. We’ve made our share of mistakes raising two girls and two boys. We do not have perfect kids. Our children have done some things that scared the begeebees out of us. There have been some less-than-stellar grades, a Jeep that didn’t survive an off-road excursion, and some overdrawn bank accounts. But consequences have a way of making sure these were all one-time events.

Whether you have chubby cheeked cherubs or stubbly chinned teenagers, the best time to begin to build character deliberately into their hearts is now

But I wasn’t afraid for our kids to go off on their own to a secular college campus, unsupervised, totally responsible for making their own choices, and living with the consequences. Why not, you may ask. Well, once again, it isn’t because we are super parents or we have extraordinary kids. It had everything to do with what we built into their hearts before they got to that point in their life. We call it character!

Character is what shows up under pressure, when the choices of life go against our natural bent toward selfishness or self-gratification. Building character into children’s hearts makes them strong from the inside out and gives them what they need to face the challenges in their lives. Whether it’s saying no to underage drinking or not cutting in line on the playground, all of our kids will be faced with choices, and we won’t always be there to help them make the right ones. That’s where character building pays off all along the way of parenting.

Whether you have chubby cheeked cherubs or stubbly chinned teenagers, the best time to begin to build character deliberately into their hearts is now! Just like they learn to walk and talk, to read and drive, a child learns to make good choices based on the character that is modeled, rewarded, and expected of them.

In the hope of assuring all of you moms, especially the young moms, that your child is not going to grow up to be a swindler or cage fighter just because they lie and hit, I would like to begin weighing in on some character development for your children in future blog posts. I’ll give you some hands-on suggestions for building lasting character in your children’s hearts so that when they grow up and go out on their own, you won’t be afraid for them. Instead, you will be encouraging and excited for them to continue on the great adventure God has planned for their lives.

My four are up and running. (No one is in jail, three are married, all are gainfully employed, and the last was still in college the last time he checked in.) I humbly look forward to sharing some of our stories — the good, the bad and the ugly — with you in hopes that it will equip and encourage you to gift your child with a heart of character.

Just like a builder pours over his blueprints, knowing that those will determine the strength of the structure, we must focus on our children’s character, and their good behavior will follow.

Until my next post, I would like you to look at your children in a new way. Rather than seeing a sticky two-year-old or a stinky thirteen-year-old, look at them as a magnificent building coming out of the ground. Yes, they will all have their own look and purpose, but all of them will need an infrastructure of character to withstand the winds and weather of our culture. It will be character that will make them sufficient to face the world that we are handing over to them in the future. Just like a builder pours over his blueprints, knowing that those will determine the strength of the structure, we must focus on our children’s character, and their good behavior will follow.

Character-Building Tip:

Although all of our kids give us many reasons to criticize their bad behavior, make sure you are spending at least twice as much energy praising their good choices based on good character. Rather than telling your son, “You are such a slob,” tell him, “I appreciate it when you take care of your sports equipment. It shows a real gratefulness on your part for what you have been given.” He’ll think twice the next time he leaves his baseball glove on the floor.

Editor’s Note: Because building character into our children is so important and something we as moms must do intentionally we’re revisiting this post series from last year. You can read the rest here:

How are you intentionally building into your children this week? We’d love for you to share your ideas with all of us.