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How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World

How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dave Stone's new book, How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World (Thomas Nelson, 2013).

It’s challenging to raise selfless kids in this fallen world, because doing so is countercultural. Selfish attitudes are so embedded into the fabric of our culture that parents have to be intentional about training children to learn the selflessness God wants them to develop.

If you take the challenge to teach your kids how to look beyond themselves and serve others, you can count on God’s help every step of the way. It’s important to God that your kids become selfless because, in the process, they’ll become more like the greatest servant of all: Jesus Christ.

Here’s how you can raise selfless kids in a self-centered world:

Take an honest look at the life you’re modeling. How well are you personally showing your kids what a selfless life looks like? Keep in mind that your children likely won’t learn to be selfless unless you are first, since you’re an important role model for them. Ask God to show you any areas of your life in which you’re currently self-absorbed. Once you’ve identified them, confess your selfish attitudes and behaviors and pray for the strength you need to become more selfless in those areas. Develop a habit of praying often for the ability to develop more compassion and generosity in your life.

Teach your kids to honor other people by putting them first. Show your kids the importance of putting others in the limelight rather than seeking attention for themselves. Every day, point out opportunities to perform acts of kindness to help people whenever they notice a need they can help meet, cooperate with people rather than arguing with them, interact with good manners, and encourage people who could use someone to cheer them on. Let your kids know that God notices and appreciates even small acts of love, such as inviting someone who’s sitting alone in their school cafeteria to join them for lunch, or working out a conflict with one of their siblings at home.

Help your kids develop pure motives for serving others. While our culture sends children the message that they should serve other people only in order to get something for themselves in return, God calls them to serve others out of pure motives. Teach your kids that serving out of pure motives involves being willing to honor God and express love by serving: when there’s no benefit for them other than the sense of joy God gives them, when no other people are watching, when those they serve don’t show appreciation, and when sacrifices are necessary to keep a commitment to serve.

Point out opportunities for your kids to serve others. Help your children notice the many opportunities that God gives them daily to serve other people – from doing a household chore to help your family, to volunteering for a community service project that particularly interests them. Alert them to specific ways they can help and encourage and support them as they incorporate service into their lifestyles.

Focus more on your children’s character than you do on their accomplishments. Let your kids know that who they are is more important to you than what they do. Compliment your kids whenever you notice them displaying godly character traits (such as integrity, respectfulness, and compassion) through their words and actions. Emphasize the importance of developing good character more than pursuing achievements through school or extra-curricular activities (like sports or music). While encouraging your children to do their best with their achievements, let them know that what matters most is simply the kind of people they’re becoming, regardless of what they do or don’t achieve.

Teach your kids to give generously. Show your children the importance of giving their resources (such as money, time, and energy) to help other people in need. Let them see you tithe to your church, support charities, and volunteer your time – and when you do, do so cheerfully, so they can see the joy with which God blesses those who give. Encourage them to begin tithing on their allowance and make sacrifices (such as giving up a new toy they want) in order to contribute to causes about which they care. During the Christmas season, celebrate God’s gift of Jesus to humanity by focusing on what your family can give rather than what you each can get.

Show your kids hospitality in action. Open up your home to others when you can, such as by simply inviting friends to dinner. Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter what your house looks like; what matters is how you treat people. If people feel valued after spending time with you because you’ve listened to them and treated them with respect and kindness, you’ve successfully practiced hospitality.

Encourage your children to show grace to everyone. Teach your kids to be express their gratitude for the grace they’ve received from God by obeying His command to extend grace to others in the midst of challenging situations. Since your goal should be for your children to grow to become more like Jesus, they need to learn how to pray for and serve those who mistreat them, as Jesus did. Urge your children to forgive the people who hurt them while still maintaining healthy boundaries in their relationships. Encourage your kids to treat everyone with whom they interact – regardless of how different people are from them, or how difficult to like – with respect and kindness. Pray with your children about the challenges they experience in their relationships, and discuss ideas for how they can remain graceful even when under pressure.

Help your kids overcome pride and prejudice. Teach your kids to befriend people who are different from them (economically, racially, and socially) so they can come to understand how relationships with different people can enrich their lives – and so they can learn to see people as God sees them: for who they are on the inside, not the outside.

Teach your children to encourage others. Model the importance of encouragement by regularly encouraging your kids; then they’ll feel secure enough to encourage others. Help them notice and affirm others who doing something right. Point out people who seem discouraged and urge your kids to try to cheer them up.

Adapted from How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World, copyright 2013 by Dave Stone. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tn.,

Dave Stone is senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where he preaches the truth of God to more than 22,000 people each weekend. He and his wife, Beth, have three children: Savannah, Sadie, and Sam, and a son-in-law, Patrick. Dave believes the most practical way to spread the gospel is through moms and dads who model a genuine faith for their children.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who has served as a contributing writer for many years. Visit her website at:

Publication date: May 31, 2013