Yesterday was a gorgeous day, especially for February, and I found myself out working in my yard. I wanted to get a topiary plant for one of my pots, so I went to my favorite nursery where I found the perfect one.

Unfortunately, the perfect one came with a hefty price tag compared to its scraggly sibling in another bucket. The gentleman at the nursery thought the sculpted plant was beautiful but encouraged me to take the less refined plant and do my own sculpting.

As I loaded the plant into the car, I had a fleeting thought of taking it to the salon and letting a beautician do my dirty work. However, I quickly came to my senses when thinking of the additional cost and headed home.

I put the plant in rich soil, grabbed my scissors and started attempting to shape the plant as I had envisioned. Wow – plant sculpting takes a lot of work! And, it will take time and many more clippings before I create the final product. (Thank goodness it’s just a circle versus some exotic shape or animal!)

As I was clipping, I was reminded of the children I encounter every day. These precious preschoolers come in with so much potential as well as a huge need of training so that they can one day become the adult that God intended them to be.

As parents, this can feel like a daunting task. Just like my 7-gallon boxwood gem, sculpting the character of a child is going to require patience and diligence to obtain the final outcome.

First, as parents, you need to have in mind what you want your child to look like at 18 years of age. If you are hoping for great attributes, the Bible is full of them. Take those qualities and decide how to instill them into your child over time. For example, if you want your adult child to be characterized by having compassion for others, that process begins now. Take time to model how this looks, give them the opportunity to practice, and praise them when you see them doing a good deed.

I find it interesting that we, as parents, are so surprised when our children don’t show respect for others. However, when they are allowed to talk to us and to others with an “attitude” and no repercussion is made, we are reinforcing that this kind of behavior is acceptable and appropriate. Of course, when they become teens, the attitude is a lot less cute, and by then, you are way behind on your trimming! Stop and take the time that is needed to “cut” out that attitude so that you can train respect into your child’s character.

“Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

You have been given a huge privilege to teach and sculpt the character of your children, and the window is very short. This is not the time to pawn the job off on someone else, a.k.a. the beautician. Instead, see this as your responsibility and as a commitment you are making to your child and to God. Find others to help you achieve your goals – it really takes a village.

Steps you can follow:

  • Examine your own life for traits you do not want your child to observe or adopt, and change them now.
  • Pray for wisdom and guidance as you raise your child.
  • Make a list of attributes you would like to instill in your child.
  • Get a game plan together – you can’t make a bull’s eye if you have no “target”.
  • Love your child, but do not forget to discipline out of love and not anger.
  • Find a Bible teaching church that can support your efforts.