Thursday, January 8, 2009
A Novel Approach to Character - part 1
In this post I talked about a great lady named Derri Smith who bestows her vast knowledge and wisdom on child rearing upon our intimidated and exhausted group of "new moms" at church. Every so often she sends us an email with a list of books which have been "pre-approved" by her as quality and effective tools for teaching our children how to be people of good character. She has even been so gracious (and wise!) as to suggest books even for us adults! As I promised, I will be sharing what I learn with you. Here is her first installment:
Have you known (or been) a person who sees the negative in every situation, and who complains about all that is not as it should be? Or the type who take the kindnesses and service of others as their due, with little notice or expression of gratefulness? Does such a person spread joy, encourage or bring out the best in others? Do they reflect God? You are likely nodding your head, “no.”
A grateful heart habitually focuses on blessings rather than the problems, irritations and things that don’t suit it – the things that are a part of everyone’s life.
A grateful family is thankful for much in the midst of hard times. Grateful people have a habit of noticing the little things done for them by friends and family and expressing their genuine appreciation. They notice the many gifts God has placed in their homes and lives and in the world around them, and they launch mental bouquets to Him in thanks. Such people know a contentment and joy that an ungrateful person never can, no matter the circumstances, and they spread that joy to those around them.
At its core, contentment – and the joy that springs from it – is a matter of trusting God. When we trust that God is at work and that, despite our failures and the obstacles in the road, He is accomplishing His purpose in our lives and those around us, we can be content. Discontent raises its ugly head when things are not going as WE think they should or would prefer or when we feel life is out of control … OUR control.
As parents, we need to nurture in our children an “attitude of gratitude”. They need to see that someone took time to purchase and wrap a gift for them. Children should develop the habit of speaking and writing their thanks. They need to understand that meals do not magically appear on the table and that money doesn’t just refill automatically in the ATM; someone works hard to provide for their family. Resources for school, trips to the zoo, the vet or music lessons all require parental sacrifice. Therefore, a “thank-you” is in order when a child benefits from these blessings. By working this awareness into the warp and woof of our lives, we raise children who see the service of others not as their due but as a privilege.
Everyone has problems; they are a part of life. The fork in the road comes when we decide to focus on our many blessings, rather on our problems.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Philippians 2:14
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” Thessalonians 5:18
Note: All picture books are unpaginated unless otherwise noted.
Happy Father’s Day by Steve Kroll, illustrated by Marylyn Hapner, 1988, Holiday House, ISBN 0-8234-0671-7. Six children and Mom plan a Father’s Day filled with loving surprises for Dad; they do his chores, make homemade gifts and plan a special treat. Throughout the day, Dad expresses his gratitude for the gifts. Other character qualities include love, resourcefulness.
Petunia Beware by Roger Duvoisin, 1958, Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0-394-90867-8. Petunia the Goose is never satisfied. She eats from her friend’s food because it looks better than her own. She always thinks the grass on the other side of the fence looks wonderful, so, despite warnings about wild animals, she walks out into the meadow beyond the farmyard. The grass is the same old grass, and eventually even drier than that in her farmyard, but Petunia keeps going further, sure that she will find grass better than what she is used to. She narrowly escapes a weasel, bobcat, raccoon and fox, is rescued by the farm dog, and upon her return declares that the grass at home is the best she has ever tasted.
The Wolf’s Chicken Stew by Keiko Kasza, 1987, G.P, Putnam’s Sons, ISBN 0-399-21400-3. Even a hungry wolf, set upon fattening a chicken and eating her in a stew, is softened and won over by the gratefulness that is expressed by the hen’s 100 baby chicks for the food he left.
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder 352 pps. Reading level: ages 9-12 Harper Collins Seventh in the award winning classic series based on the author’s life, this book tells the story of Pa, Ma, Laura, Mary, Carrie, and little Grace bravely facing the hard winter of 1880-81 in their little house in the Dakota Territory. Blizzards cover the little town with snow, cutting off all supplies from the outside. Christmas is lean that year, though Laura manages to make a small gift for everyone in the family. A great read-aloud that is sure to generate thankfulness for your family’s many blessings, including food, heat… and Christmas presents.
For Teens and Adults
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom In the midst of the horrors of a concentration camp, Corrie struggles to "thankful in all things." With effort, she even thanked God for the irritating fleas in her sleeping quarters. Later she discovered that the guards stayed away because of the fleas, enabling her, and others, to have Bible studies.
I can't wait to get started! I'm not sure if little boys ever like Laura Ingalls Wilder books, but I know I always did. I could definitely learn a thing or two about gratefulness. Our family has been so blessed. We may not have the biggest house in the neighborhood...we may not live in the best part of town...we may have just returned our cable box and tivo (lord help me) so we can cut down on expenses...but we have food and shelter and heat and each other and a God who loves us and has sacrificed for us beyond comprehension. Awe and gratitude. Awe and gratitude.