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Raising a Relational Child

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When your child goes to school, what’s the highest measure of success? A report card filled with A’s? Although academic achievement is a worthwhile goal, there’s something more important than your child’s academic record.

What kind of human being is your child becoming?

More than straight A’s, strong moral character will predict your child’s success as he or she grows into an adult. I had the chance to read to my son Ethan’s third-grade class. As I sat down with William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues, I asked the class of third graders, “What is a virtue?” Blank stares. They looked at the large book I was holding and concluded that a virtue was a collection of stories. Not one child besides Ethan could define the word virtue.

Kids know all sorts of things about video games, cartoons, and the latest apps. But they lack instruction about character. Virtues are behaviors that show high moral standards. Responsibility. Compassion. Persistence. Faith. There is no virtue app you can download into your child’s heart and mind. Virtues are taught and caught as children observe and listen to their parents talk about what is right and what is wrong.

In Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World, Dr. Gary Chapman (author of the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages®) and I outline five A+ skills your child needs to develop in order to succeed in life and love. Don’t abandon your efforts toward achieving academic A’s, but keep the following A+ relational skills in the forefront of your child’s total education in your home.

Five A+ relational skills your child needs:

  1. The A+ skill of affection
  2. The A+ skill of appreciation
  3. The A+ skill of anger management
  4. The A+ skill of apology
  5. The A+ skill of attention

These A+ skills are not characteristics some children are born with and some are not. They are learned abilities that seldom happen automatically. This is good news because it means instilling character in your child isn’t like buying a lotto ticket. It’s not left up to chance. You can make an impact on your child forever by teaching her how to:

  • Show affection
  • Appreciate others
  • Deal with anger
  • Learn to apologize
  • Pay attention

Maybe you have not been proactive in teaching these five A+ skills in the past. You can’t change yesterday, but you can change today and tomorrow. Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” If you want your child to have a bright future, it’s up to you to create one. That usually involves taking actions that displease your children. “What do you mean I have to apologize to my sister?” “I don’t want to do my homework.” “Do I really have to write a thank-you to Grandma for the sweater?”

You are the parent in your family. Your child is not in control, not even of the electronic devices in your home. If your children are not interacting with the family in a way you consider healthy, it’s your responsibility to make a change. If you hold a child accountable, he or she will respond. Parents are to train up children in the way they should go, not the other way around. You need a clear idea of what you want and expect from your children.

Your home is the training ground for the five A+ skills of affection, appreciation, anger, apology, and attention. The time is now for creating that bright future for your child.

For more information and free helpful downloads, visit

Adapted from Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane. ©2014 Northfield Publishing. All Rights Reserved


Moody Publishers strives to educate and edify the Christian and to evangelize the non-Christian by ethically publishing conservative, evangelical Christian literature and other media for all ages around the world, and to help provide resources for Moody Bible Institute in its training of future Christian leaders. Learn more at

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