Crawford’s talk was Choose Your Battles; Fight For Character. This is classic Crawford. He tells the truth without watering it down, but he tells it in love. I could listen to Crawford every day. He’s a very good speaker. He says what needs to be said and what I need to hear.
I like how Crawford defines character. The definition he gives is, “Good character is nothing more than actions and choices consistent with our values and beliefs despite life’s circumstances.” I think the word “consistent” is the key to the whole phrase. It’s not too difficult to follow Jesus sometimes, but it’s very difficult to follow him consistently and we need to develop discipline in order to do it. As a parent, we need to develop that discipline in our kids. If we’re adults and have never fully learned that discipline, we need to learn it now. Our choices determine our character. What we want our character to be is irrelevant to what it actually is. As he says, “Dreams don’t mean anything apart from personal discipline.”
Crawford goes on to make several points, using Ephesians 6:1-4 as the scripture reference.
1. Parents are not primarily responsible for the character of their children
I think there’s a codicil there. He says parents are supposed to provide an environment, an investment and the opportunities, instruction and discipline by which their children can make right choices and develop good character. Your child might still choose to do make bad choices but, you don’t need to own your child’s mistakes. Of course, this also means that we are responsible for our character as well. We don’t get to blame our parents.
2. We need to understand our roles.
The devil is real and wants to destroy our homes and families. In order to prevent that, we need to understand our roles in the family.
First, children are to both obey and honor their father and mother. He points out that Paul does not make this command conditional upon the parents doing anything. Using the original Greek, children are supposed to listen under their parents and value them. Crawford disagrees that respect is always earned and not given. Positions (and roles) do matter, even if the person occupying that role has yet to prove that he or she is trustworthy in your eyes. We obey and we show respect because it is right to do so.
Second, parents are not to exasperate (or pick on) their children. Crawford claims this is the “heavier responsibility” that the one place upon children. Parents need to have a sense of priority and need to clearly understand the difference between principle and preferences. Children need to know the difference between what parents might want and what are the real character issues.
Parents also need to have a vision of maturity for their kids. A vision of where you want to take them. This is done by bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. You are training your children and giving them Biblical wisdom, giving words of both encouragement and warning, making sure that the warnings are based upon scripture, not your preferences.
3. Getting the job done
He gives seven building blocks of character and gives an assignment. He wants us to go through the book of Proverbs and find scripture references for each of these points. I will do this later.
Here they are:
There are three kinds of prayer.
We need to pray offensively for our children’s weaknesses. If the child is timid, pray for courage.
We need to pray defensively. These are the “deliver them from evil” kinds of prayer. Pray against bad influences, for example.
Pray with your child and not just when they’re little. Pray with them “all the way through” as he says.
ii. Clear rules and boundarie
Children want boundaries. Not having boundaries frustrates children and parents both. By giving kids boundaries, you teach them how to say “no” to destructive forces and learn the discipline necessary to own right choices and develop good character.
iii. Reward right choices
It’s easy to focus on the bad choices they make, but you need to reward the good choices they make. Not necessarily with goodies and stars, but with an attitude of affirmation, celebration and applause.
iv. Discipline them for bad choices
Kind of self-explanatory. It’s the second ½ to part ii. Boundaries are meaningless without the discipline that comes from violating them. This doesn’t mean there is never room for grace, but consequences are a good thing.
v. Repetition and perseverance
Some kids are just hard-headed. That’s just the way they are and you can’t just give up on them. You have to stay on it. The temptation becomes to lighten up as we get more tired, but Crawford says that we need to do the opposite. The boundaries and discipline need to get stronger when dealing with a particularly stubborn child. “Increase the pain” as Crawford says. It’s the most loving thing you can do. Some kids only learn by learning the hard way.
This is not a hovering or smothering thing. He means that your kids need to know that you are for them and that you are on their team. You spend enough time with them to know their desires, hopes and dreams and that you want to help make them come true.
Do not try to raise your kids by yourself. Use the people, structures and institutions God has given to you to affirm the values you are trying to teach your kids. Take advantage of the church, good mentors, good peers, good coaches, etc. We need to forget about image management, admit we need help and get the help we need from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I liked this sermon a lot. I want to develop and improve my own character or course. And, while I’m not a parent yet, I am a teacher. I can apply a lot of what he said to the classroom as well. I think this is a sermon I’ll be returning to frequently in my mind.