Monday, November 4, 2013

Developing the Character of Faithfulness

There are certain things in our home that seem to re-occur all the time - or not *chuckle* - unless I help improve a child's character in that area.  Character qualities such as faithfulness, being responsible, having a thankful heart and attitude must not only be expected by parents but taught.  Our children like to say, "I forgot."  Well, everyone forgets sometimes...but "forgetting" all the time habitually is a character issue that must be corrected.  Bob and I like to refer to this habitual forgetting as "selective memory". 

Some of our children have tended to have selective memory in regards to things like laundry, projects that need to be cleaned up, or school left lying around the house; clean clothes dumped in the dirty clothes hamper unnecessarily; jobs not done around the house or done with a poor attitude and complaining, etc.  By selective memory I mean different from actually having a poor memory, but rather having a good memory for things they select to remember and not choosing to make an effort to remember things they don't care about.  *chuckle*  *wink*  It's important for children to make a conscious effort to remember what their parents say to them.  

I'd love to share with you a parenting strategy we implement to help improve a child's character - and "memory" - so that things get done.  This is especially valuable when you have a lot of children and the consequences for the family when children ignore a parent's directions are multiplied by about 9 kids.  *smirk*  For our family something has to be done about that character issue.

Many issues of children's character development is partially taught by using charts and lists.  This has been a great strategy in helping the children stay on track with what they need to accomplish, and in remembering all of the aspects of what that includes.  For example, when Bob or I say, "Please clean up the kitchen", what does that actually mean to a child?  And how can I expect them to do a thorough job if I don't spell out for them precisely what I expect when I say this.  And, without having to say every single night, "Have you done this...have you done this...have you done this?"  So we let charts and lists be the bad guy and hold them accountable.  *smile*  Now we just say, "Have you checked off your chart?" and receive a 'yes' or 'no' answer.  Other simpler jobs or daily occurrences, however, do not need a chart or a list - they simply need to be embraced as a responsibility and then fulfilled.

Here's an example of an opportunity for character development in the areas of responsibility, faithfulness, obedience, and thoroughness.  Putting away clean clothes rather than dumping them into the clothes hamper out of laziness.  This problem magnified by 9 children makes a huge difference in the amount of laundry we need to manage.  If they've worn an outfit for a short time, to go shopping for example and then they desire to change when they get home, they need to put those clean clothes away not dump them into the hamper.  Or when we come home from church and the children have only sat in their church clothes for the service that day and the clothes are still clean then usually when we get home those outfits can be simply put away and do not need to be washed (unless they've already been worn twice as a general rule).  But our older children seem to "forget" this until I've made an effort to improve their character and selective memory.  Why is this habit of managing clothes well important?  Let's consider that.  Here is the list I have our children write 5 times (depending on their age) to impress the reasoning on their selective memory as to why we don't do this.

No Clean Clothes in the Hamper Because:
  1. It creates unnecessary work for mom to wash clean clothes.
  2. It creates unnecessary work for Karen and Melanie to fold and put away extra clothes.
  3. It wastes water, detergent, and fabric softener which then wastes daddy's hard-earned money.
  4. It wears the clothes out faster and they do not then last as long.
  5. It fosters laziness by tossing clothes where they do not belong instead of putting them away in a basket or drawer or on a hanger.
  6. It sets a bad example and develops bad habits in younger siblings as well.
Now developing character does go further than just writing a list.  When I'm faced with older children's clean clothes in the hamper as I'm doing laundry then I have two courses of action to choose from.  Either they pitched their clothes intentionally out of laziness (after they've been given all the reasoning as to why they may not do this) in which case requiring a consequence to be implemented; or, it was done simply because they did not choose to embrace the responsibility and make an effort to remember.  My dad always said to me growing up, "You don't get to forget."  I was expected to make sure I remembered things.  This is a choice, and a discipline to be developed.  I could set multiple alarm clocks if necessary to be sure to get up on time; or put a bag in the car the night before if necessary to be sure it wasn't forgotten and left behind; or I could write myself a note - or several notes, even up to 8 1/2 x 11 if necessary - but I didn't get to just forget.  Now don't misunderstand me.  Everyone forgets things sometimes!  I'm not being unrealistic.  I'm talking about a character issue here.  A bad habit to be corrected, both for their own benefit, for our family's benefit as a whole, and for their own future spouses and children's benefit eventually.

Here's another example of a recent frequent occurrence in our home by the laundry-folders:  laundry is folded and put away but then the baskets were left around the house... every single time, 4 times a week.  Now, to improve their character and their selective memory they write this list five times if they need to in an effort to impress the why behind this responsibility, and I'm pleased to say that their selective memory has become active memory again at least for now.  *wink*  Here's their list:

 Laundry Baskets Put Away Because:
  1. Then they're out of the way where people need to walk in our small house.
  2. The house looks clean and orderly.
  3. No young children are tempted to play with it when they should be attentive to what they're supposed to be doing.
  4. No younger children will be tempted to break it.
  5. When someone needs it they won't have to go looking for it.
  6. Daddy won't have to re-use his hard-earned money to replace it when it breaks.
  7. Daddy doesn't have to come home to clutter in his way in the hallway or in our bedroom when he's trying to walk there.
  8. Daughters develop the character traits of orderliness and responsibility to one day keep their own homes orderly for their own husbands and families.
Another example was developed just today for the 7-year-old daughter who had begun complaining about doing her sweeping job in the kitchen every day after lunch.  She does a great job when she chooses to, and has gone from the job originally taking about 30 minutes to complete when she was first learning to only about 5-10 minutes with her great plan of attack for getting it done quickly and thoroughly.  But lately her job has been accompanied by complaining and stomping around, and asking why she has to do this job every day?!  *raised eyebrows from the mom*  Well I told her for a couple of days that she could choose to recall by herself why sweeping is necessary and valuable (she's been told many times), but if her selective memory fails her then I'd be happy to help her remember why she needs to sweep.  Then the next day when the complaining reoccurred I verbally reminded her why we sweep and why she should be choosing thankfulness for being able to do it for our family.  This verbal reminder apparently made no impact as the next day was filled again with complaining.  So, she received my help in developing that character and developing her memory by - you guessed it - writing it down where she can see it, write it, think it, and her herself say it aloud if necessary.  *chuckle*

 Thankfulness in Sweeping the Kitchen:
  1. I am thankful that we have so much good food that I get to sweep our abundance up from the floor.
  2. I am thankful that I have a nice broom to use to sweep the floor with.
  3. I am thankful that we have a warm, safe, sunny home with a nice kitchen to eat in and sweep afterwards.
  4. I am thankful that I have eyes that can see so that I am able to do good work and help keep our kitchen clean.
  5. I am thankful that I have two hands that are able to do good work.
  6. I am thankful that I have legs to carry me wherever I desire to go, and which allow me to do good work.
  7. I am thankful that I'm not in a wheel chair unable to do good work such as this.
  8. I am thankful that I can help serve our family by keeping the floor nice and clean for others to walk on and not have to step on food.
  9. I am thankful that I can clean the food off of the floor so that we do not get pests such as ants in our house.

This really is not a complicated matter improving a child's character and selective memory, but sometimes it's easy for parents to feel at a loss for how to handle a child who simply chooses not to comply.  Parents can first determine which of the two paths to take, determining if it is willful disobedience which requires discipline; or if it's simply a child's choice to not embrace responsibility and to choose laziness or indifference (which is actually still willful disobedience) - and then to proceed from there.  *smile*  I hope this idea simplifies some character training for you.

Blessings on your efforts with your family,

You might also be interested in reading my related posts:
Character Training For Children: A Core Aspect of Discipleship 
Orderliness - A Closer Look
Choosing Thankfulness
Family Participation:  Chores for Kids 
Charts and Lists that Save My Sanity


  1. Erika, thank you for this tip! I will be implementing this. By the way, I have a 10 year old boy has begun lying over just about anything from cleaning his room to finishing work etc. He is our oldest and its throwing me completely off. Any suggestions.

    1. Accountability for EVERYthing. You must check everything he's told to do, and he must have a consequence for every act of disobedience. Even if you ask him to put a book away, make a mental note as to who you asked to do that and when you go to that room again and you see it out you know who was not faithful to put it away. Tobasco sauce on the tongue is a good consequence (a couple of drops). And writing scripture down - lists of it - on lieing. The blessings of telling the truth and consequences of lieing and what God thinks about it.

    2. I would personally use soap to wash their mouth out in the case of lying. Just wet the toothbrush, then apply a thin layer of soap (bar soap) or liquid handwash. Then clean child's teeth,roof of the mouth and tongue as you would if you were using toothpaste. While explaining to the child because you lied, your mouth is now dirty, and so it must be thoroughly cleaned. Then ask them to rinse their mouth out with water. Explain why God hates lying. And it is NOT acceptable. The last person who used Tabasco sauce ended up on dr Phil. (Silly woman filmed it, and was in the wrong by losing her temper) that kind of info I wouldn't share publicly as you never know who may object and use it against you. Causing unwanted attention. I would of responded in a private email after carefully discerning the persons intentions. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with Erika's suggestion. Just thought more wisdom could of been applied in what setting to give the answer. :-)

  2. Wonderful and so insightful!! My five year old's biggest excuse is "I forgot!" Thank you for equipping me with a great way to handle it. You are such a blessing! -Emily

  3. Several months ago I made a chore chart.

    The rule in our house is that you don't have to like the chore, you just have to do it. Also, I won't tolerate complaints or bad attitudes about doing a good job. I grew up in a house with a mom who was a screamer. So if tasks were not done to perfection the drama was ridiculous. I didn't want to be that kind of mom so I GPS the kids. (That's what my husband calls it.)

    You know how if you make a wrong turn, the GPS doesn't yell, it just keeps reminding you. Our chore chart has a red section which means "STOP - you have chores to do." When the chore is done properly you move it to green which means "GO PLAY - your chores are done."

    If a chore is not done or not done well I move it back to red and say "please check the chart". Everyone checks. Who ever has a chore in red does it again. Because the kids want to play together they'll often help a sibling "get to green" so that they can play.

  4. Great post, as always! Any suggestions for slightly younger ones who cannot write yet (but are first born almost 5 yrs old and mature enough to need this lesson!)? Especially regarding the complaining/bad attitude...

    1. Great question! =) I would probably write out the list in very simple/few words that you desire him to learn (but still with as many points as you can think of!), and then draw a single/simple picture/symbol beside each point to represent it. First read the list to him and make sure he understand each point, then show him that he gets to draw (or copy if you draw with dotted lines) that symbol and tell you verbally what the point is that goes with it. So for example, if it's a matter of wasted money, draw a dollar symbol and have him say that it wastes daddy's money. If it's wasted time draw a simple clock and have him copy/draw that and say that he'd be wasting your time, if leaving a toy out could make someone fall you could draw a frowning face maybe with a tear, etc. And do each point probably once, and every time he "forgets" his responsibility. After once or twice he'll know each point that matches the picture and while you're doing something close by he can tell you the point and draw/copy the symbol one time through. =) After he's done it a few times you'd also have the option of just doing a verbal review when he forgets. Say, "Oh you forgot? Then apparently we need to review why this is important. Go ahead and tell me the reasons why you need to do this..." IF he can't then he gets to draw them again. ;)

  5. I love this. Thank you for sharing your way of handling "forgetfulness!"

  6. How does your family so with snowy days? Do this girls still wear skirts outside when there is a lot of snow? Our family just transfered to wearing skirts exclusively and this will be our first winter.

    1. When the kids play in the snow they just wear snow pants. But there's also no one around in our cul-de-sac or back yard. We usually don't go out shopping or anything when there's lots of snow on the road (but ours only lasts for about 3 days max at a time), until the streets are clear, and in that case when we can go shopping we still wear our normal clothes/skirts, with leggings and tall brown leather boots that look nice with a skirt, for warmth. =)

  7. I appreciate this post very much with respect to the "selective memory" - I only have 2 children however it is comforting to see that children are the same the world over. While my eldest (11) is doing really well and trying really hard, the 7rd old is going through the same thing as your daughter re. chores. I employed both your scheduling and your explanations and they both worked brilliantly for cleaning her room which she has been resisting constantly. Similarly for my eldest's homework, when we scheduled it in she was emotionally and mentally ready to sit down and work hard. Thank you for publishing this blog and sharing this knowledge. It was a blessing to us over the past weekend.


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