How to Instill Humility in Your Children
- Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Humility is one of the rarest of all the character traits—and the most desperately needed. Here are some ways we can encourage this character trait in our kids:
1. Teach your kids to be servants. Jesus repeatedly taught this lesson to His disciples: "Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all'" (Mark 9:35). There's no such thing as an arrogant servant; a servant is humble by definition. If kids learn to see themselves as servants of God and others, they will naturally develop an attitude of humility.
After the publication of my book Coaching Your Kids to Be Leaders (FaithWords, 2005), I received an email from Tom Walsh, a reader who is teaching his kids character and humility at an early age. He told me, "Thanks for writing this book! As a father of two boys, ages two and four (with a third child on the way), I found a lot of ideas in your book about how to raise emotionally and spiritually healthy kids. Your book inspired me to action."
He went on to say that, one Saturday, he took his two boys out to a bagel store for breakfast, then they went to a local nursing home to visit some of the residents. He had never done this before and wasn't sure of the procedure, so he walked up to the desk and told the receptionist that he and the boys would like to visit someone.
"Who have you come to visit?" the receptionist asked.
"Anyone," Tom replied. "We just want to visit someone who could use a little company."
The surprised receptionist informed a staff member, and the staff was very accommodating. They let Tom and his boys wander around and talk to people wherever they went. Finally, they came to a lounge where a number of residents were gathered, eating doughnuts and sipping coffee.
George, Tom's four-year-old, walked right up to people, put out his hand, and said, "Hi! My name is George! It's nice to meet you!" The boy gave each person a hearty handshake. The people at the home were charmed by Tom's two boys—and it was an uplifting experience for Tom. For his sons, it was the beginning of their training in becoming servants to others—an invaluable field trip in the school of humility.
Tom Walsh concluded with these words: "I don't think you can ever start too early training kids to consider other people and serve them. At the same time, you are teaching them to sharpen their social skills, overcome shyness, and build their confidence. Thanks again for providing that spark of inspiration in your book!"
I'm pleased that my book inspired Tom to take that action—but I feel his story has inspired and touched me even more! He showed me that it's never too early to start teaching humble servanthood to our kids.
2. Encourage kids to admit mistakes. You can't be a person of humility if you can't admit it being wrong. Our kids need to see that people think more of them, not less, when they admit mistakes. When our kids face criticism, they need to learn to consider the merits of that criticism instead of instantly defending themselves.
One way to encourage kids to admit mistakes is by showing mercy when they confess their sins and errors. Tell them over and over again that, when they fail or sin, they can always be forgiven and accepted. A confession will always make life easier for them than a cover-up or a lie. Kids who feel they can safely go to their parents with the awful truth are much less likely to be dishonest and defensive.
Another way to encourage kids to admit mistakes is to set an example by admitting our own errors. Some parents feel they need to keep up a false front of perfection in front of their kids. They feel that admitting mistakes would diminish them in their children's eyes. In reality, when we as parents say to our kids, "I was wrong, please forgive me," we are actually magnified in their eyes.
3. Teach kids to demonstrate empathy toward others. Because humility is essentially a matter of considering the needs and feelings of others, children need to learn sensitivity to the feelings of others.
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