Q&A with Karen Budzinski, author of “How to Build Children with Integrity”
For nearly four decades, Karen Budzinski has directed Women’s Ministries for several churches, served as a Sunday School teacher for adult, youth and children’s classes, taught Discipleship and New Believer’s Classes, led marriage groups for couples, and counseled troubled marriages. She attended Central Bible College to study Biblical Counseling, and has held seminars and taught homiletics to individual groups, district denominational gatherings, as well as leaders in Peru and Haiti. She speaks to various MOPS groups each year, and teaches an on-going class on Building Better Relationships in her home and at church. She has five children and 14 (soon to be 15) grandchildren. She and her husband, Gary, have been married for 37 years and reside in Michigan. For more information, visit www.KarenBudzinski.com.
What inspired you to write this book?
I married the love of my life in November 1981. I love instruction books, manuals, and recipes, but found there weren’t any to keep our relationship as amazing as I wanted it to stay. So one month after I got married, I gathered 50 women and began teaching (and learning about!) building better relationships. In 1984, we had our first child, in 1985, our second, in 1986, our third, in 1988, our fourth, and in 1989, our fifth (yep, 5 children in 5-1/2 years). I kept teaching the building better relationships class upon request and recommendation, with new people being added regularly. Thirty-three years later, I compiled the best of the best information I had taught and put it into a book, workbook (to live it out), and teacher’s edition so others would do what I did: lift the standard that would ultimately lift them, and encourage groups to do the same! While I was raising my children, I realized the same thing I did about my marriage. Although there were plenty of books offering help, there was not one that I could go to that captured the essence of what I needed to train my five variant personalities to excel in a compromising world. As I learned in living out a strong marriage, it wasn’t enough to fight off opposition: I needed an intentional and strategic plan to build children with integrity in a world that often rewards those without it.
What are the biggest obstacles to instilling integrity in children in our modern society?
Raising the next generation of children is more distracting than ever. Parenting advice is vast and varied, and the results of choices of parenting styles are not clearly seen until often it is difficult to reverse. Parents long to drop some of the extravagances and laissez-faire attitudes to find a healthy balance between enjoying and equipping their children. Parents today are highly-educated and socially-connected parents. We want to raise children with purpose, that excel not only in their pursuits but in the character that makes them victorious when life throws them challenges. How do you give your children the best opportunities without feeding the narcissism that is prevalent in our selfie society? By giving them integrity. Building children requires integrity: the wholeness that comes from knowing who you are, what you stand for and what you live for. Integrity is consistent; it can be counted on. Building children requires that you build them with ethics and character that will stand against the flood of social opposition to strong values. How to Build Children with Integrity is a toolbox of resources and ideas for parents and those who are involved with children. This book is meant to be used as a springboard to get people to think of how they can take normal everyday life and build something lasting in children along the way. Included are many ideas on how to implement training character starting with ages where parents are not even accustomed to thinking ahead to training outcomes yet.
You say in one chapter to use “discipline as a tool but not an end goal.” Can you explain?
The word is derived from the Latin disciplina, which means instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge. Discipline means a set or system of rules and regulations. Start early to teach children that they need to act in accordance with schedules and consider others. Discipline also means to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control. If you want children you can bring to public places that are in a state of order, it begins in your home. Rules without relationship breaks us down. Rules with relationship build us up and establish protections that we need to thrive. It is vitally important that you understand discipline and training the way God intended it because if you discipline your children in the wrong way or with the wrong motives, it can turn them away from you or away from God. Be sure that discipline is your tool to teach your children and bring them to maturity and fullness of relationship with you, not to punish or drive them away from you and break their spirits. Know the difference between willful disobedience and childish behavior.
You talk about the “Eve Syndrome”…what is that?
The Eve Syndrome is when we become consumed with what we don’t have and allow it to eclipse our enjoyment and use of what we do have. It kills gratefulness, feeds discontentment, and we sacrifice what we have for an illusion that the grass is greener on the other side. By learning to love and appreciate the life and things that you have, with all the ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses, you learn to love your children the same way, and others the same way. Rather than controlling and manipulating others to be what you think they should be, learn to appreciate and love people for everything they are and in spite of everything they are not. In the process, you allow others to love you too: by not choking, killing, or demanding performance before you give love.
You have a chapter that talks about responsibility. What are some keys to help children learn to be responsible?
We need to teach children to be responsible by first helping them be “able” to “respond.” The process starts by parents being able to respond correctly to their frustrations (which incidentally are usually their children!). The next step is to build our children’s trust so they know we are watching over them for their good and for their benefit, and we can be trusted. We need to teach our children to keep on going despite faults and errors in life. We need to identify a correct response and an incorrect one. By looking at the outcome you desire from how you respond to adversity, you can adjust your behaviors to be more responsible. It is imperative that as we train children to make good choices that we also train them on how to pick themselves back up and fail forward when they find they’ve made wrong choices. The earlier you train your children to know the blessings and the joys of doing the right things, to deny themselves, to consider others, and to live with purpose, the more they can process the negative impact wrong decisions will cost them. There are several more tips in the book.
What would you say are the most difficult challenges for parents today?
The breakdown of marriage, family, and relationships, both statistically and as portrayed in the media, needs to have a counterattack. It is easy to get swept up into a flurry of activities that have no eternal value. Activities substitute and take away time that should be used for training in many homes. Many fathers are out of the house, not only because of divorce but maybe even because of the need to work long hours. Social media often substitutes for face-to-face relationships, which can result in relationships that aren’t able to achieve depth and meaning when lived out through computers and smart phones. My experience is that many families are looking for help in how to counteract the cultural opposition to training children who are able to excel not just academically, but morally. The most important social institution according to Christian teaching is the family, and that institution is being pushed more and more into the background by undue encroachments of the community and of the state. The lives of children are no longer molded solely by the loving atmosphere of the Christian home; in fact, often children or parents spend most of their time away from their homes. How many hours a day do you have your children in your home where you are having an influence on them? Very few, if it is like most homes. They are under the influence of other people most of the day. Since it is so limited, we must use our time and how we train our children wisely.
You dedicate a lot of time talking about raising children to be givers. Why is that important?
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies revealed that high levels of gratitude and low levels of materialism in adolescents was associated with high life satisfaction, social integration and low envy and depression. True joy is what is inside you, yet in our society there is a constant focus on what we put on, or what we own instead. Although more money is being spent on what we have and what we look like, at the same time, rates of depression are rising. In fact, research over the past few years seems to show that as people become less materialistic their well-being (including good relationships and sense of purpose) rises. When talking about greed and parasitic people that are consumed with what they can get from others, people that will never get enough, the Bible refers to leeches with …twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more” (Proverbs 30.15 MSG). Leeches are known for sucking blood insatiably: they can ingest up to five times their body weight in blood taken from their host! A gruesome word picture, but the comparison is stark: sadly, by pummeling our children with things, we can produce leeches with the mentality of “Gimme” and “Gimme more;” and they will never have enough things to satisfy them. Just as parents don’t realize the damage done until it is too late, the host of a leech often doesn’t feel the pain until it is too late. Don’t give your children too many gifts. Make opportunities and activities consistently so that extravagant giving is more the norm for your child than demanding and taking. Extravagant giving that creates endorphins, which scientists refer to as the giver’s high, is the best remedy for selfishness.
What do you want readers to gain from this book?
I want readers to awaken their senses to discern what the end results will be of the seeds they are planting in the lives of their children, either intentionally or unintentionally. I want readers to assess where the end result of the way they train their children will bring them. I want people to take responsibility to train their children to be overcomers, world changers, and unselfish: strong in character so that they will be able to withstand opposition and challenges in life. I want parents to train their children to live their lives intentionally and with purpose so that joy replaces depression, and purpose replaces aimlessness in teen statistics. I hope parents will be brave enough to analyze and identify some of the skewed ideas that have fastened themselves to their lives, taking away enthusiasm and vitality in their families and obscuring the importance of training children versus watching or even just tolerating them. I want to encourage readers to empower their children to live the lives they dreamed of, and take concrete and tangible measurable steps to do what they can to resurrect those dreams.