Achievement vs Character

We are living in a time of pressure, challenges, and where the focus is more on success than ever. It is difficult to navigate the waters of uncertainty, compromise, and the newest flavor or trend of the month as a parent. As an educational psychologist, who is also a mom to a busy toddler, I am more aware of the challenges we as parents face. We are in a world where everything revolves around the next achievement, performance, and being better than the next. But, we need to keep in mind that we are not of this world. We are part of God’s kingdom, raising Godly kids. We live by different standards.

I am not a big fan of milestones. Though they indicate what may be considered as ‘normal’ development, they have become an overly important measurement of what is good enough over the years. Milestones have become more difficult and complicated as society has evolved. There are constant ways to grade your children’s performance through apps, articles, reports, certificates, assessments, and criteria. Now, these criteria are not based on your children’s performance, but rather how they compare with their peers, the trends, their age level, and the latest expectations from society. It has become one big competition of who is the fastest, strongest, smartest, most versatile, or the best.

Galatians‬ ‭6:4 ERV‬‬ “Don’t compare yourself with others. Just look at your own work to see if you have done anything to be proud of.”

The Bible requests us not to compare, but to do our best. Comparison only leads to shame, guilt, pride, compromise, and competition. Competition is not biblical at all. God’s Word, Jesus as our example, and God’s character are all about the messages of grace, love, and humility. Satan wanted to be more powerful than God and look where he ended up. The Word encourages us to run our own race well and with endurance. Thus, work hard, do your best, and don’t be lazy. But never strive so hard that it is at the expense of your own, or someone else’s, health or spiritual well-being. Jesus gave us the example of selflessness, servanthood and love.

Furthermore, Paul challenges us to be the least and to love and support others. In the kingdom of God, whoever would be first, shall be last, and whoever would be last, shall be first. The purpose is never to be better than others but to work together in peace towards a common goal. In The Bible, we read of people who were considered weak, unqualified, and unsuccessful. Still, God chose and used them for His purpose. Just think how Samuel anointed David to be king. While people judge on appearance and apparent abilities, God looks at the heart.

Therefore, character is always more important than achievement. That is where God wants us to mature and how we should raise our children.

When your children participate in activities that involve competition, let them do their best, learn skills like communication, how to handle conflict, problem-solving, teamwork, etc. If they win while doing their best, that is great. But, everyone eventually loses at something, no matter how talented they are. How to lose and win well is far more important than always winning or being the best. Be careful that your strong and very talented child does not become obsessed with winning because it comes easy for them. Success is not equal to self-worth. Encourage them to use their success or talents as a platform to expand God’s kingdom and to help others. Always give God honor and glory because God gave them those talents. There is a fine balance between excellence and striving for perfection at all cost.

We must always aim to work hard, do our best as unto the Lord, but never to the extent of making ourselves superior and more important than others.

Achievement will not help your child during suffering and trials of life. Character and traits such as endurance and perseverance, will. This generation of children will have to be tougher and stronger to face, manage, and overcome the unique challenges lying ahead of them. You, as a parent, have the responsibility to model, instill, and teach those qualities which grow into a Godly character. No other person or institution can do that for your child. You, as a parent, need to keep your child grounded and in tune with the things that are of eternal value.

Philippians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭TPT‬‬So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.”

Thankfully you are not alone in this conquest. Your children belong to God foremost, and you are working in partnership with God to raise them the best way you possibly can. The Word of God is your parenting manual. You can also tap into the wisdom of grandparents and spiritual mentors. You will make mistakes, and you will have doubts about how to handle a new age level or season. Take heart that God did not make a mistake to give that specific child to YOU. Only you can love, guide, and support your child to become the person God made him or her to be.

We need to have a whole different outlook on parenting if we long to see eternal qualities in our children. It starts with a paradigm shift. Firstly, thinking and knowing the eternal values and Godly priorities we aim to mature in as children of God. Secondly, changing our speech. And lastly, being intentional and actively involved in the parenting of our children.

Godly characteristics include attributes such as obedience, humility, integrity, loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, love, patience, gentleness, compassion, purity, self-control, holiness, perseverance, faith, and recognizing the value and worth of others because they are made in the image of God and belong to Him. Your children’s worth should not be determined by their achievements or how they compare to others. Their value is in Christ alone. That is an essential truth to get across to your children. Speak the truth of God’s Word over your children, and show it in actions of love.

Watch your speech. We are so conditioned to praise good results and success in the world. This does develop some confidence, but can easily send the subconscious message: ‘You are only okay if you succeed, achieve or perform.’ It is called conditional love or acceptance. Not at all the way that God loves every human being on the planet. It is a very worldly or humanistic outlook that promotes self-enhancement or self-elevation. The mind-shift one needs to make is: Praise the person. Do not praise results. For example: ‘I love that I can experience all of your school experiences with you.’ Instead of: ‘Well done on that great mark on your test.’ (This is not an easy change to do. I find it very challenging, myself). Support and encourage your child, especially when results are not favorable.

Colossians‬ ‭3:11-14‬ ‭TPT‬‬ “In this new creation life, your nationality makes no difference, or your ethnicity, education, or economic status— they matter nothing. For it is Christ that means everything as he lives in every one of us! You are always and dearly loved by God! So robe yourself with virtues of God, since you have been divinely chosen to be holy. Be merciful as you endeavor to understand others, and be compassionate, showing kindness toward all. Be gentle and humble, unoffendable in your patience with others. Tolerate the weaknesses of those in the family of faith, forgiving one another in the same way you have been graciously forgiven by Jesus Christ. If you find fault with someone, release this same gift of forgiveness to them. For love is supreme and must flow through each of these virtues. Love becomes the mark of true maturity.”

Be intentional to make eternal values the focus of what you develop and promote in your children’s lives. Doug and Cathy Fields wrote an excellent book, Intentional Parenting. They talk about instilling 5 C’s in their children. Confidence, Character, Convictions, Competence, and Compassion. How do you want your children to behave when you are not there to guide and check on them? How would they handle success, disappointment, failure, trials, heartache, the unexpected and pressures, when you are not around? You only have so many days to be a parent. Make every day count.

Remember that discipline is biblical and good for children. Do it in love, and you cannot go wrong in building great character in your children.

Celebrate their uniqueness, personality, strengths, talents, weaknesses, their pace of growth, and development. It is good to nurture growth and development. Still, there are things that your children might never be good at. They might not be the best runners, singers, or good at solving Math problems. That is ok. God made them each for a unique and divine purpose. God, the Holy Spirit, and yourself will work as a team to equip them to fulfill that role.

Colossians‬ ‭3:21‬ ‭TPT‬‬ “And fathers, don’t have unrealistic expectations for your children or else they may become discouraged.

We as parents often fall into the trap of not wanting our children to choose the same life we did, so we try and overcompensate for our mistakes or live vicariously through them. It is through no real ill intention at all, but it is unhealthy and puts added pressure on them. Rather, use your life experiences and what you have learned in your relationship with God to model Godly behavior. Leading by example always speaks louder than our words.

I want to encourage you to first give love and acceptance to your children. Be intentional, every day and time you have with your child. Never stop praying for their present and future. Do the best you can with what you have. There is a reason you are the parent to your child/children. God is with you, promising to give you strength and wisdom along the way. Be your child’s greatest advocate, support, and cheerleader. Show them the way to Christ and what life as a child of God entails. Share God’s Word and the experience of community with other believers. Remember that God’s love covers all sin and His grace is always sufficient. You are doing a great job, mom and dad!

Stay resolute my friend.



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