Teaching Children The Ten Commandments Of Character

God has really been working on me lately, showing me that I need to step up and be more intentional with countering the abuse in my kid’s lives. I have been reading through tons of books on abuse, trying to glean what I can from them, to help guide my children through the gauntlet of confusion my ex creates and to better understand my ex and thereby know better how to counter his manipulations. I am working on the premise that I have to teach my kids to think critically and see abuse for what it is. If I want them to be able to do that, then I have to learn how to do that first.

I am learning that part of stopping the poison of abuse is doing everything I can to bring them up to identify it and then reject it in their own lives. To that end, I read … and I read … and I read. Lately, I have been reading Character Disturbance [Affiliate link] by George Simon Jr. About midway through the book, he presents his Ten Commandments Of Character. My pen bled all over those pages and as I sat back and let it all sink in, I thought maybe I could distill that information down into terms my kids can understand, and then use it to teach them the principles of good character. In the process of doing that, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to share with other mommas who may need this for their kids too.

We are the ones who need to teach our kids and help them develop the skills they need, to not only fight the impacts of abuse on their lives, but also develop the character traits they need to stop the cycle of abuse and refuse to become abusers themselves.

Here is what I came up with, paraphrasing Simon’s Commandments in simpler, shorter language, to make it easier for children of various ages to understand. It is my hope that it will help but I would also encourage you to read the book, as it goes into much better detail than I can here:

The 10 Commandments Of Character

1)   You are not the center of the Universe. It’s not all about you. Think carefully about how you act will affect the people around you. You live in this world with many other people and they all have needs and feelings, just like you. Be careful about what you do, because your actions can either hurt or help other people.

2)  Remember, you don’t deserve things just because you think you should have them. That’s called entitlement. But God gave you your life as a gift. You didn’t earn it. Try to be thankful and grateful for the gifts you have received from God, instead of feeling like you deserve more. Respect the people around you and treat them better than you would treat yourself. Go out of your way to help them and give to them, instead of just taking for yourself.

3)  You are important to God but you are also not the most important person in the world. It’s just as important to see that you aren’t better than other people, as it is to know that you also do have value. Your talents and abilities are given to you by God. They aren’t from you. You should be thankful to God for them and give Him the credit for them. Your merit is in what you do with what God has given you. That’s what matters. God gave you your gifts. You need to make an effort to use them to honor Him and help others.

4)  Truth is very important because lies hurt other people and hurting people is against God’s laws! Don’t tell lies, cheat or manipulate to get what you want. Be truthful when you have made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Don’t take short cuts by lying, cheating or stealing to get what you want. Always be honest.

5)  Sometimes you have to go through hard times to grow and to love better. God wants you to live and be happy, but you were never meant to have everything you want, whenever you want it and expect other people to just give it to you. If you just try to always get what you want, you will hurt other people while you are trying to get it, and that isn’t right. You need to make the choice to love other people and to want to help them more than you want to get what you want.

6)  Think before you act. Think about what you are about to do, and then think about the consequences of doing that. Just because you want to do something, doesn’t make it good for you to do and it’s important to decide before you do it, whether it is a good thing to do or not.

7)  You need to grow strong in love, and in understanding of what is right, so you can be ready to make the right choices, even when it’s hard to do that. That’s part of it. The other part is actually making the choice to do what you know is right and to do what you know will help others.

8)  Being mad is not bad in itself. It’s ok to be angry, but it’s not ok to hurt other people because you are angry. Sometimes you will have to fight for what is right, but you need to do it in a fair way. Don’t try to just win or hurt someone so you can get ahead of them. Always respect other people’s needs and rights, even when you are angry and have to stand up to them because of what they have done.

9)  Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Even when people don’t act nice, you need to treat them decently. You don’t have to agree with what they are doing, but you do need to behave well yourself.

10)  Don’t pretend you are doing something to be nice, if you are really doing it just to get what you want. Tell the truth about why you are doing something. Try to do things because it is the right to do them, not because you want something out of it. Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. This is called being Sincere.

I don’t exactly know how to begin this process yet. Right now my goal is just to work on one of these at a time in my kids lives and just work on them as long as it takes to help them understand. Ultimately, the choice is theirs, but I have to try. All I know is that for my kid’s sake, I have to try. I have to try and then leave them in God’s hands.

17 thoughts on “Teaching Children The Ten Commandments Of Character”

  1. Have you yet read “When Dad Hurts Mom” by Lundy Bancroft? I just bought it for my kindle and am about to start it. I bought it for the same reasons you list, to help my daughter sort out the manipulation at home and to help her through it as we remain (for however long as that will be). I’ve requested Barbara Roberts’ book for the kindle from the publisher because I’m trying to read discretely while still at home with our abuser.

    Editor’s note: this comment was modified to eliminate identifying details.

    1. Dear Still Reforming, please accept my deepest apologies for the fact that my book is not yet available in an e-book formats. I have a volunteer working at that, but it’s not done yet. I am always so flooded with tasks to do, and this is one I have sadly put off for years. Please pray for my volunteer and that the others who have to do things to get the project to completion, will do so quickly.

      1. I know you’re overwhelmingly busy with the ministry of helping people such as myself and my daughter. I didn’t want to mention it to you, Barbara, because you’re busy but also because I expect it’s the publisher’s job to get it done. I will pray for your volunteer and those others to bring the project to completion; I imagine it’s a very high mountain to climb. Thank you for all you do!!!

  2. This is good. You are probably working on some of these things a little at a time without realizing it already. In those moments when they are young sharing becomes an issue and the one that has the toy doesn’t want the other to have it. Someone gets punched and then you have to have the conversation about how we behave in those situations. We don’t hit and we can’t always have what we want when we want it.

    This is a good list for any parent to have whether there is abuse in the home or not. Running this play list in your head will remind you of how you want your children to be raised and what you want them to remember.

  3. Excellent – and the best way to begin the process is by example. And, when one slips, show your children how to confess and make amends!

  4. I love this!! Thank you so much for writing it out. I am going to print this and go over them one at a time during dinners and discuss them with my boys.

  5. Hi Deborahmom, love the list. Thank you so much for re-writing it for the little ones…I read the book too and was planing to go through them with my children and this helps a lot.

    If I may though, there was one word or rather a sentence that jumped up at me. I feel that telling the children that they should treat others ‘better than themselves’ is what got me into this abuser predicament in the first place, and not once. I know how you, and Dr. Simon meant it in a positive sense. The Lord also tells us to ‘regard’ others as better than ourselves. Which I understand means don’t be proud or arrogant. But I worry that the above sentence could give them the wrong idea. I feel that the Lord says to ‘love your neighbour AS yourself’ because it is healthy for both sides. (Love is action/treatment of others/self as I learned). If they learn to see their value in Jesus and that they are His precious and unique creation, they will love themselves and have healthy boundaries. That will help them to extend the same healthy love to others. And protect them from being naive or victimized. I had it all wrong. I find it sometimes so challenging and confusing to teach them the right concepts in situations, because I’m still struggling with learning and internalizing them myself. I have to say, parenting is definitely not for sissies, lol. But in the middle of abusive environment it can be so tough. I pray daily for wisdom. Thank you again, Deborah, for putting it together and sharing, can’t wait to use it.

    1. Sasanka, that is a really good point, and one I struggle with too. I struggle to understand the difference between God telling us to be kind to everyone, and at the same time, not allowing ourselves to be abused. How do we be kind AND create healthy boundaries at the same time? Or with your question, how do we think of others as better than ourselves AND know our worth in the Lord and not allow abuse in our lives at the same time? I was reading this morning in my Bible about that and praying for understanding on it, in regard to abusive situations.

      I could easily be wrong, but I think ultimately what God is saying is to be humble and don’t think of yourself as better than other people. But at least for me, I can take things like that too far and then believe I don’t have any right to have needs or desires. I think what God is saying though is that there is a balance between understanding your worth in Christ as a human and God’s child on one hand, and also understanding that you are not above anyone else on the other. Some of us tip the balance in one direction and believe we are entitled to anything and everything and some of us tip it in the other direction and feel worth nothing, like mistakes that should not have been created. I think God wants us to have healthy boundaries and know our worth in God, but He also wants us to know that we are not entitled to anything and should not treat others as though they are beneath us.

      I hope that helps clarify. It’s a real balance, but an important one.

      1. I think we need to make a distinction between treating someone “well” and giving them what they want. God is our perfect example. He loves us perfectly and unconditionally but in His perfect love He does not give us everything we want because in our sinfulness we often want things that are not good for us. He says no, so that we won’t hurt ourselves and others.

        Our abusers demand their own way. Always. Treating them “well” can mean saying no. Our abusers want to hurt us when they don’t get their way. Treating them “well” means saying “no” to enabling their sin by allowing them to hurt us.

        Loving our abuser means being willing to go the extra mile in order to do what is best for them. Allowing ourselves to be mistreated is not what is best for our abuser. Giving them everything they want like a spoiled 2-yr-old is not what is best for them. Having murky or non-existent boundaries is not what is best for them.

        When we enforce boundaries and don’t give in to unreasonable or sinful demands, we will experience uncomfortable consequences. Accepting this fact may feel like we are not, at that moment, “treating ourselves well,” because appeasement would protect us from those consequences. We are giving up our own comfort to do what is best for someone else.

        Sometimes the consequences are worse than “uncomfortable” and will require a safety plan. Choosing which battles to fight and when requires discernment. One counselor of mine pointed out to me that, while my abuser always told me I was stupid, I was in fact very smart to figure out how to navigate those dangerous waters. He told me I was weak. She pointed out how strong I was to handle his abuse and ultimately seek help. So please understand I am not suggesting an across-the-board defiance, but rather using wisdom and discernment to begin to resist the negativity.

        This is setting aside your own comfort for someone else’s best interests.

        Ultimately, it is also best for us.

  6. Well done! I, too, am going to add this list to our daily devotions during homeschooling. I think I am going to read a point a day and ask the kids to find a verse in Scripture that solidifies the point. Since God’s Word does not return void, I am going to pray that it sticks.

    Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with information. I am reading Jeff Crippens book now and also marking almost each line! Wow! To have someone see into the life I live. The children sometimes can be jostled in my own mind as I trying to sort out how to handle my abuser that I needed to read this to keep plugging away at teaching them truth and not get so caught up thinking about the abuse.

    Philippians 4:8 “Finally brethren whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things.”

  7. For a person who’s been abused by evil, these guidelines could cause harm. They are meant to show a hard-hearted person what correct behavior and motivation look like, but for those who are already heart-sensitive, they are heavy-handed.

    Many of us who married abusers came from abusive families. Many of us didn’t realize that we were abused because there was no hitting or violent outbursts but as we come to learn and understand the truth through websites like this, we start to get a glimpse of reality. There’s a paper written by Beth. McLarnan McDonald on-line that talks about adult children of narcissist (ACON) titled, “Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents: The Echoes.” Behavior modification for an abuse victim is damaging. In the paper she points out that not being/feeling “good enough” is the result of abuse and conditioning and in order for a person to heal from this they need to have someone who accepts them without wanting anything from them and through this and not behavior modification or tough love, a survivor of abuse can come to heal.

    It is hard out here in the real world and to live by Gods word. By faith. But this is what we are to do. It would be easier if there were “10 easy steps to……..healing from evil, raising children, having the perfect body” etc. etc., but there isn’t one, or it’s author would be very rich!

    1. Dear Anonymous, from what you said, this seems to you to be potentially harmful . . . I’m wondering whether it triggered you somehow. I’m sorry if it did that.

      Personally when I read the post (which I did before it was published as one of the Eds at this blog) it did not seem harsh to me, nor did it seem like a list of ten easy steps for parenting, nor did it seem like a recipe for behavior modification for parents or children. I am not sure why it seemed that way to you. However, I realise that each of us has our own perspective and brings our own history and experiences to what we read.

      I agree with you that a non-empathetic, non-compassionate, white-coat clinical approach to behavior modification can be unhelpful / damaging to victims of abuse, whether they be children or adults.

      However, I don’t think that Deborah is taking a non-compassionate approach in this post. I thought she was simply taking some of George Simon’s excellent teaching and applying it to parenting. Deborah’s children go regularly to stay with the abuser (their father) and he constantly crushes and frightens and tries to mold their spirits to suit himself and his wicked mindset and agendas. Deborah is trying to shape her children’s character in positive ways, in the face of relentless undermining and countering by her ex. I know Deborah personally, and I’ve seen her with her kids and I can vouch for the fact that she would be using the principles that George Simon outlines in compassionate and empathetic ways with her kids.

      I’m sorry for your pain, Anonymous. I hope you continue to find our blog helpful. Hugs to you.

      Another thought: behavior modification has had a bad rap (think Skinner, rats, Pavlov’s dog, etc). But in its magnificent range of teaching and advice on how to live life, the Bible does contain teachings that are consistent with a behavior modification approach, does it not? For example, it often points to the consequences of foolish living (the ‘stick’) and it also points to the benefits and blessings of making wise choices (the ‘carrot), the importance of tempering our emotions and our conduct so that we are less likely to foolishly/impulsively sin, and the importance of respecting the rights and valid needs of others but not giving in to the coercive pressures and demands of the wicked. Is that Bible teaching not a kind of behavior modification? God, of course, does it with the right measure of (a) tenderness to bruised reeds and (b) harshness towards malignant narcissists. I hope you can see Deborah’s post in that light. Tragically, many people take the Bible and apply the blow torch to the bruised reeds and the soft glove to the wicked.

      But we know that each of our readers here is different and each of us have our own old wounds and tender bruises which can surprise when we least expect it. Bless you.

  8. I wonder if it seemed harsh to Annonymous, because of what was discussed shortly above it… this idea of “treat others better than yourself.”
    If this is where she’s coming from… I get it.
    I found the post a bit upsetting myself, although I know that’s not how it was intended.
    I think that these are wonderful values, but I can picture some of these words coming out of my abusers mouth in a hurtful way: “You’re not the center of the universe,” (as if valuing my and my child’s safety is me saying I am more important than anyone.) “Try to be more grateful,” (he often said things like this when financially abusing me.)
    I know this isn’t how the post or book were intended, and I think that with some balance these values are really useful to teach our children… but I also see why someone would be triggered by them.
    These are things I want my child to learn, however, along with the “red flags” and a deep sense of his worth in Christ, and how He expects us to handle abusers.
    Thanks for the post and this forum to talk about our reactions to it :).

  9. (Airbrushing as I write…)

    First, may I say thanks to everyone for their writing on this post?

    From a personal perspective, I could see it from three sides.

    Not so long ago, I would have been unable to say the same thing.

    (Keep in mind, I do not have children, very rarely babysat, so you may wish to take what I write with a large grin of salt. 🙂 )

    As I read through Deborah’s simplification of George Simon, Jr.’s book, I thought, “What a wonderful simplification! For those still in the fog – with or without children – maybe it could help place the concepts within reach.”

    Depending upon how long one has been abused, how much time one has to read, perhaps Deborah’s list would provide a leg up.

    This was the “first side”.

    Towards the end, I felt the fog descend. My ability to concentrate diminished, remaining focused required more diligence.

    I was puzzled.

    Then I read Anonymous’ comment and thought, “Yeah. That makes sense, too.” (There are a number of similarities in our background history.)

    This was the “second side.”

    Barbara’s comment followed and I thought, “Yep. Makes sense about the trigger.” I had, after all, felt the fog descend.

    This was the “third side.”

    If you have children, I can see the benefits of the simplified list. Time is at a premium. Sitting down with the book / a Kindle is no easy task.

    For anyone with children and in an abusive household, the difficulties have just increased astronomically.

    For anyone raised in an abusive household, I can see where any kind of list might replicate the actions of their abuser(s).

    For anyone involved in a “c”hurch, especially one that is legalistic, the list may represent more legalism.

    I do not know how Deborah’s list could be adapted without it losing all benefit / meaning.

    Reading a few years after the fact, I had the advantage of everyone’s input, in sequence. I have also reached the point where I can “feel” the fog. Sometimes, I can even identify the source of the memory fragment.

    I repeat: Keep in mind, I don’t have children.

    I can remember many years ago, when one of my nieces was a tiny baby. I was the only one who could soothe her screaming… 🙂

Leave a comment. It's ok to use a made up name (e.g Anon37). For safety tips read 'New Users Info' (top menu). Tick the box if you want to be notified of new comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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