I’ll never forget the day I realized that we are all born as selfish little monsters. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know that people are selfish and I have seen it a thousand times. Goodness knows, I have been IT a thousand times. But on this day, my children, my beautiful darling children, had turned into little angry monsters looking out only for themselves. We had just gone to the store (a feat in and of itself) and had finally pulled into the garage after a long grocery trip. One of my precious darlings decided to announce, “Last one in is a rotten egg!” and that’s all it took for chaos to ensue! The race was on. So, there I was left with all the groceries, and the toddler, who couldn’t unbuckle himself yet, began panicking that he would be the “rotten egg”! He began screaming and wiggling as my older two kids took off like they were on fire! I unbuckled the little one and watched his stubby little legs as he ran to the door. I began grabbing all of the groceries (because who really wants to make two trips?) when I heard a slam and the loudest wailing ever. I’m sure you can guess what happened here… The older two body-checked each other on the way inside and slammed the door without looking behind them, all in an effort to be “first” and win whatever prize they seemed to think would be given out at the finish line! The little one had his hand slammed in the door and fell down and of course, not only was he physically hurt, but his little heart was hurt because he had been left behind. At this moment, I knew it was time to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting with my “little monsters”.
Now this is a somewhat funny, albeit sad, story but it proves the point that at our core, we are just plain SELFISH. No matter how much we want to put others first, no matter how many sweet memes we share about being kind, and no matter how often we practice acts of service, in our flesh and our basest desires, we are selfish beings in need of a Savior. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” Plain. And. Simple. We need a Savior. Our kids need that Savior too. So, as parents, the greatest thing we can do for our kids is to point them to Jesus. But, once we’ve done that, our work is not finished. So, here are a few ideas on how
to teach selflessness to our children:
1. Model It
If you want your children to put others first, you must first start with yourself. Ugh. That’s a tough one, I know. But, those sweet little angels (often little monsters too), are always watching you. Even when you think they’re not, or think they’d never understand what you’re doing, they do. They learn by watching. YOU are the example that God has given them and he has equipped you for such a time as this. Make sure that you are thinking of others first as often as possible. So, what’s this look like? This could be turning off the TV and playing that game your kid is always begging you to play. This could mean taking a dinner to a friend that needs extra
support and letting your children help prepare the meal or come along to share it. Don’t forget to explain WHY you’re doing this task. The “why” matters to them. You have to determine the acts of service that fit in your life and with your circle, but don’t forget that they see you, copy you, and need to be included in your acts of service.
2. Actively Teach It
We are all so busy and generally going from activity to activity. But it’s in those moments, that selflessness can really shine! Begin thinking about your day-to-day activities and habits when your kids are around. Ask yourself “what are they learning from this?” For example, when you’re at a siblings practice or activity, what are your other children doing? Instead of giving them a digital device, could they watch and cheer for their sibling? By doing so, you are encouraging a stronger relationship to their sibling, which helps build a bond and lessen daily tensions between them. This also teaches them that by cheering they are putting the encouragement of their sibling above their own desires. Sibling relationships can be so hard, but are the most important relationship they have right now, and a great place to start practicing selflessness. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing ever good is!
3. Talk About It
Talking with your children seems so simple but in reality can feel very forced in the beginning. That’s okay. Developing a deep relationship with your family that encourages open communication is no easy task and takes active engagement by all involved! A simple way to begin is by making a rule that at least one meal per week will take place around a table and will have no electronic devices. Once you have that meal, go around the table and do “Highs and Lows” in which each person talks about something great that happened that week and something not so great that happened. Make sure your kids are listening to each other and making eye contact with whomever is talking. That sounds so basic but unless practiced, does not come naturally to all. You will be surprised at how this makes your children feel valued. And once this becomes a habit, they will ask to do this! You’ll be surprised by how much it makes you feel valued too.
4. Pray For It
Of course, it all comes down to prayer and our need for a Savior. Actively practicing selflessness will stretch you, challenge you, and put a spotlight on the areas that need work. Your best weapon is prayer. God will hear you, honor you, and bless you for your efforts! He knows your heart and your love for your children and He will not leave you high and dry! He will equip you with all you need to teach His ways to your kids.
Rest assured, you are the right person for the job! Remember, Philippians 2:3 says “Do nothing from selfish ambition, but with humility, regard others as more important than yourselves.” Model this, actively teach it, talk about it, pray for it, and watch as your sweet little ones point the way to Jesus, our Savior.