By Susan Causey, M.Ed., LPC, School Counselor
When my girls were in elementary school, occasionally we would have a year which was more difficult than others. Perhaps all of her best friends ended up in the other class or maybe she had a “personality conflict” with her teacher. This usually meant that the teacher was strict and would not let her get by with misplacing things or messy homework. Maybe she was just going through an awkward stage and felt like “nobody liked her,” or someone was being mean. We called these “character building years.”
Of course, as a parent, we want our children to be happy, but what we need to do is to keep their ultimate happiness in mind. Character building years give parents a great opportunity to build life skills in their child. How the hurts and disappointments are handled makes all the difference in whether the challenges build up and strengthen your child or lead to resentment and a “victim” mentality.
The secret is keeping your eyes on your ultimate goal – raising a well-adjusted, confident, and self-reliant adult. When your child feels mistreated by another student, focus on what can be learned instead of the hurt. The Bible teaches us to pray for those who mistreat us. (Luke 6:27-28) It teaches us that our confidence should rest in the Lord and that our value comes from being His child instead of a label that a hurtful “friend” may place on us. (Psalm 71:5) It teaches us to speak the truth in love and not to repay evil for evil. (1 Peter 3:9; Ephesians 4:15)
Practically speaking, if a child can learn to respond from a position of strength and confidence, a “bully” will not be inclined to mess with him/her. Bullies like to target victims, so a person who responds with love and strength does not give the bully the power and may ultimately win him over.
As far as a teacher conflict, encouraging your child to respect and obey his/her teacher even though she may not be the favorite teaches your child to honor the chain of command God has put in place. Of course, all of our teachers are loving and have the best interests of our students at heart, even if they seem strict. They have the ultimate happiness and success of their students in mind.
I recently heard psychologist Dr. Leonard Sax on the secret to happiness. Longitudinal studies have provided evidence that the single biggest predictor of adult happiness, health, wealth and success is the measure of character and virtue in a child. How do you teach virtue? You teach virtue by requiring good behavior. A child goes back to the familiar, or as the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) What is the most important virtue? He says it is humility, teaching your child to esteem others as more important than themselves.
Some practical ways to teach virtue, self-control, and humility are requiring your child:
· to eat their supper (whatever you fix) before dessert
· to clean their room before bedtime
· to be responsible for their homework
· to limit their screen time
· to be respectful of others
· to listen more than speaking out
· to not run around inside someone else’s house
· to use good manners