The Problem With Character Education

The Problem With Character Education - Parenting Like HannahPaul Tough in his book How Children Succeed, quotes studies proving there are multiple benefits for children who have strong character traits and act on them. Ironically, the benefits even include better health as an adult (Ephesians 6:3). It’s no wonder public schools and others have wanted to introduce character education as a part of their curriculum.

What is interesting, as a Christian, is that their efforts have had uneven results at best. It seems that when internal motivations fail to remind young people to have good character, they must rely on external motivations. Those who don’t have parents or schools who are there by their side constantly reinforcing the positive behaviors will often fall back on previous bad habits in character. Secular attempts at character education have had to resort to creating good “habits” as the best way of reinforcing good character when no one is around to encourage those whose internal motivation is failing them. (And there is no real evidence that works much better.)

Hmmm. Could it just be that removing God from the equation is what makes it so tough for kids? Kids who really understand who God is and what He wants from them and for them, have an incredibly strong internal and external motivation for having good character – doing what is right – or as we might say – obeying God.

Sadly, some of the children’s Bible class curricula available make the same mistake secular character educators have made. They have reduced the Bible to character education and made God a side note instead of the very essence of the need for good character. No wonder some Christian children struggle with character as much as their friends raised only in the secular world.

In tomorrow’s post, I will share with you the character traits the studies have shown make the most positive difference in the lives of those who constantly live them. For today though, think about how important God is in your home. Do you teach your kids who He is – all of the facets of His personality? (Studying the various names used for God is a great way to help your kids understand God. Each name represents the facet of God’s personality most displayed in that passage.)

Reflect on the character education your kids are receiving at home and at church. Do they understand why it is so important for them to lead a godly life? While you don’t want children living in constant fear, understanding Heaven and Hell is a starting point for spiritual motivation (see Kohlberg’s stages of moral development for more detailed information).

As your children grow and mature, you can help them work towards more mature and effective motivations for obeying God – including gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. Over time, your kids should develop strong internal and external motivations, based on God, for having strong and consistent character traits. They will grow to become men and women of God.

Before reading tomorrow’s post with a list of those all important character traits, really focus on bringing God to the center of your family. Only with God in the center can your children have the strong foundation to more easily become the men and women of strong faith and character God created them to be.





An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Published by

Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

One thought on “The Problem With Character Education”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.