Raise Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World
- Friday, July 11, 2008
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jill Rigby's new book, Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World, (Howard Books, 2008).
Many parents hope they can raise healthy kids by building their children’s self-esteem and focusing on their happiness as much as possible. But the result is the opposite of what they hope to achieve: self-absorbed kids who grow up into unhealthy adults – unable to find satisfaction, get along with others, or contribute well to society.
By giving children the message that their lives are all about their own fulfillment, parents are actually preventing them from discovering true fulfillment. Parents who are bold enough to raise their kids to be givers rather than takers, however, help their kids find God’s best for them in the process.
Here’s how you can raise unselfish children in a self-absorbed world:
Replace a mirror with a window. Help your kids see beyond themselves to other people. If you don’t take the mirror of self-centeredness out of your children’s hands, they’ll become intolerable to live with when they grow up and someone else will shatter the mirror for them, hurting them with its broken pieces. Aim to raise your kids to become selfless adults who function well in the world because they have self-respect, rather than self-absorbed adults who can’t function well because they feel entitled.
Take a hard look at yourself. You’re an important role model for your children. Honestly evaluate in what ways your own lifestyle is either selfish or selfless. Are your good deeds mostly about advancing your own agenda, or about the people you serve? Do you rationalize thoughtless decisions? Do you make excuses for cruel choices? Do you blame others while forgiving yourself? Do you buy things in order to feel better? Do you discipline yourself to live simply and with contentment, or are you constantly pursuing more yet are never satisfied? Ask God to reveal your selfish attitudes and actions. Then ask Him to empty your heart of selfish desires. Do whatever you can to model selflessness for your kids, such as by: not allowing difficult circumstances to make you bitter, trusting God with your children, giving without expecting something in return, making sacrifices, displaying courage, and loving your spouse if you’re married.
Accept responsibility and make a plan. Take full responsibility for your parenting so far – and how that has affected your kids – instead of blaming others like your children’s friends, teachers, or neighbors; the media; or society. Decide that from now on, you’ll change the way you’ve been raising your kids in order to change their perspectives on life, no matter how difficult they may be. Make a commitment to God to raise your children to be others-centered rather than self-centered. Make a commitment to your spouse to live with less in order to enjoy more. Make a commitment to faithfully and joyfully tithe. Make a commitment not to buy the latest products for yourself or your children unless you truly need something. Make a commitment to spend time together as a family regularly. Invite God to transform you into the person and parent He wants you to become. Study the Bible often so you’ll be able to teach your kids God’s ways. Live with integrity so your children can respect you when you reprimand them. Trade your pride in for humility so you can effectively discipline your kids, showing them that you’re their authority because God is your authority. Follow your own advice, doing what you say, so you’ll be able to successfully guide your children.
Take charge of your kids. Realize that children need parents who make decisions for them until they’re mature enough to make decisions for themselves. Don’t go to unhealthy extremes, either: deflecting your responsibility to take charge of your parenting duties and forcing your kids to be in charge before they’re ready, or giving too much or too little (without regard for your children’s needs) while depriving them of the ability to the mature and take charge of their own lives one day. Instead, build your kids’ critical thinking skills in age-appropriate ways by allowing them to make the decisions that they’re capable of making at each stage of their development.
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