Raise Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World
- Friday, July 11, 2008
Meet all of your children’s needs, but not all of their desires. Refuse to overindulge your kids in ways like: doing for your kids what they can do for themselves, buying them too much stuff, not expecting them to do chores, not having clear rules, giving them things or experiences that aren’t appropriate for their age or interests, giving them things to meet your own needs (such as looking good to others) rather than their needs, giving too much while expecting too little, and neglecting to teach your kids the life skills they need to survive in the world beyond your home. Teach your children the difference between a need and a want. Then make them work for what they want but don’t need, such as by doing extra household chores to save money for a certain video game. Help them develop patience. Give them opportunities to learn responsibility by assigning them age-appropriate duties to perform regularly. Make sure that you not only explain how to carry out their duties, but show them how to do so, as well.
Encourage your kids to place their confidence in God rather than in themselves. Help your kids know who they are and Whose they are, learn not to think more highly of themselves than they should, choose to be obedient to God regardless of what it costs them, accept their calls from God, learn to listen to God’s voice (such as by reading and memorizing Scripture, and listening to God during prayer), recognize evidence of God at work in the circumstances of their lives, serve God by serving other people (through opportunities you give them), and use their natural talents and spiritual gifts to contribute to others around them and help fulfill God’s purposes for their lives.
Cultivate compassion in your children. Fill your kids’ hearts with love so that, secure in the knowledge that they are loved themselves, they’ll be able to love other people. Choose some of the many different blessings from the Bible and pray them over your children. Aim to show your kids how much you love them through your actions and words every day. Model compassion for them by letting them see you act compassionately toward yourself, them, and others such as your family members and friends. Teach them to get to know people to understand them, and to empathize with their feelings. Help your children learn to look at situations from other people’s viewpoints. Teach them to love others. Practice hospitality, such as by inviting people over to your home for meals, opening your home up for youth group meetings, or welcoming houseguests. Do some service projects with your kids, working together to meet a need in your community (such as doing yard work for an elderly neighbor).
Build family togetherness. Strengthen your family’s relationships to help your kids increase their sense of security, which will give them the confidence to reach out to others in love. Let them learn from their experiences in your family – through good and bad – that love is choice rather than just a feeling. Eat meals together as often as possible. Work on family projects together throughout the year, from making a time capsule together in January and planting a garden in March to going on a neighborhood treasure hunt in June and thanking important people in your lives in November. Help your kids see how each of their parts in your shared projects contributes to the good of the whole.
Help your kids learn how to forgive. Teach your children how to show remorse, repent, and apologize to others they’ve wronged. Forgive your kids when they do wrong. Forgive others when they offend you. Ask your kids for forgiveness when you wrong them.
Cultivate generosity and gratitude. Help your kids learn how to live with open hands and open hearts by giving them plenty of opportunities to give to others. Nurture gratitude in your children in ways like giving them less stuff, unplugging their electronics on certain days and doing simple activities together instead, encouraging them to pray prayers of thanksgiving often, and requiring them to write thank-you notes for gifts they receive.
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