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Character Trait – Discipline:
Check It Out. – What Does It Matter? – How Does it Count?
by Lori Coeman
This month’s character trait is discipline. Discipline is an element of integrity. Integrity is based on the same root word as integral and integer (think whole number). It means whole, untouched, unbroken, and complete.
Discipline means providing the tools that help a child be whole, complete, and unbroken. The only way we can be whole and unbroken is to act in line with God’s design. Salvation, in fact, means wholeness. We are restored to an unbroken state of fellowship with God.
In the quote of the month, John MacArthur explains that discipline teaches us to operate by God’s principles rather than the selfish desires of the fallen human race.
Just as we “work out” our salvation over time (see Philippians 2:12), instilling discipline in our children takes time. It is a step-by-step process of learning what is the wise thing to do, learning how to do it, practicing it, and becoming so familiar with it that it becomes a heart attitude and a habit.
Having the time for this discipline process is one of the advantages of home education. We can be intentional about instilling character, which is the reason for this section of our newsletter.
It’s been said that perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, whether you like it or not. This statement highlights the four aspects of discipline: ability, value judgments, decision, and action.
We have to first teach our children the skill involved in doing the wise thing. Then we have to show them the value in doing it, so that they make the decision to do so, and act on it.
Let’s look at how we can be intentional about character building.
Step 1: Name it – initiative (from last month) – and briefly define it in terms the child can understand.
Step 2: Hook it – to something the child already knows and likes. Depending on the age and interests of the child, our example for initiative could range from turning the starter on a wind-up toy to clicking on an execute file to initialize a new software program.
Step 3: Add skin to it – give specific, real examples from the child’s life, both good and bad, that exhibit the trait. For example, remember when Mommy asked you to clean your room, you didn’t, and then were embarrassed when your friends came over? Remember when you said you didn’t want to try soccer but then after we made you go anyway, you loved it?
Step 4: Add color to it – fill in the details and add further explanations to help the child know what skills are involved, why it matters (the value of it), consequences and implications with and without it, and the underlying reasoning for it (based on biblical principles).
Step 5: Distinguish it – by using the three chairs teaching tool (see the Keeping Focus article).
In our example, the wise choice is to show initiative because one of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). God’s Word also teaches us to do all things as unto Christ and that He strengthens us to do so (see Colossians 3:23 and Philippians 4:13).
The opposite of initiative is procrastination. Procrastination twists self-control into self-satisfaction, avoiding what is difficult or boring. It is knowing what we need to do, but choosing not to do it. That is the wicked choice.
Foolishness is looking at a task or assignment and not doing it because we don’t know how to begin. A foolish person has not learned basic problem-solving skills such as taking a big task and breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Foolish students avoid subjects they do not like because they don’t realize that they will need to know the material later on. Foolish students reject curriculum that is not entertaining because they do not understand the importance of learning to do something even when it isn’t fun.
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