I really need to help my children think more about themselves and their own needs…
…said no parent. Not even one!
Selfishness seems hardwired into the flesh at birth. From the moment of our first breath, we struggle to get someone to recognize-and-meet-our-needs.
Sharing, generosity and selflessness are character traits that must be developed. As parents, we need our children to come to Christ if we are to see true progress in conquering the self-absorption. He alone can give them a true heart of love.
But we, as parents, can co-labor with the Lord to help prepare our children for lives of effective service for Him both in their future families and in their future lives of work and ministry.
Cultivating selflessness takes focus. Especially in a world obsessed with selfies and personal autonomy.
I wrote this list today as much for myself as for you! What else have you found that has helped stamp out the selfishness in your home? Comment below, or message me on Facebook with your thoughts!
1. Set the example
Folks, we reproduce after our own kind. If our kids see our own self-centered needs dominating the home....well, what do we expect? (Ouch!)
2. Cut the electronics & encourage group encounters
Does anyone else remember the concept of a family room? You know, that place where we all sat together to rest, refresh and recreate?? Surely our own personal electronics have wrecked this concept and turned us even more inward. What about pulling everyone out of their own worlds and back to some face to face interactions?
3. Praise selfless acts of service
It is so easy to criticize and correct. But words of affirmation and praise are far more effective in adjusting human perspectives and behaviors. Acknowledging someone’s loving kindness in front of others scores the biggest effectiveness of all. "Matthew, I was so blown away by your helpfulness when Josiah lost his shoes. Thanks for getting us out of a jam, son!"
4. Get involved in volunteer service
Nothing pulls us out of ourselves quicker than seeing the bigger needs of others. Perspectives are adjusted at a soup kitchen and on the mission field. But even less dramatic places can help cultivate the attitudes we all need. Lawn care and stuffing envelopes without pay may actually pay more than money can buy.
5. Create a culture of giving
At our home we celebrate birthdays and special events by encouraging gift giving . Now with a family as large as ours, the gifts may not be lavish or extravagant. But that is not the point. A candy bar gift from a teen who chose to skip his own friend's event and come to his sibling's birthday or graduation or post sports victory party says "you are more important than me."
6. Take care of the aged as well as children
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 1 Timothy 5:4
In our modern era where the elderly are often abandoned or ignored, we missing are a central key to our own personal development. Serving the needs of the aged as well as the cute, cuddly children is just what the Lord prescribes!
7. Provide role models
Somehow the pictures and headlines of the rich and famous on the front of People are not exuding an attitude of selflessness to our kids (or us!) We must get creative to aim our family for something different than a Dancing with the Stars version of "success." How about focusing on some true heroes like Corrie Ten Boom, Hudson Taylor, Florence Nightingale, and William Wilberforce? Our families need books and movies that cast our sight to God's version of success.
8. Travel in the same car
This might not apply to all of us. But for some of us with multiple vehicles please note how independent and self-seeking we all get when we set our own personal arrival and departure schedules on our o-w-n w-h-i-m-s and desires. (Hey, why should I help my brother find his shoe if I can just head out without the fuss!)
9. Family meals
This one is obvious. Are we all making our own personal pan pizzas or sitting around the table passing the dishes and then cleaning up afterward together with a smile?
We do a lot of chores at our house. (We have to or we could not survive!) But even if mom and/or dad can do it all, it does not mean they should. Living in a family means serving each other. Even if you are not the one who tracked in the mud.
11. Point out the selfishness
When I need to, I pull one of my kids aside and point out repetitive problems of self-centered yuck. I try to be sensitive to my timing to this. Obviously, certain stages of development are more prone to self-absorption. However, it does no one any favor to leave them stuck on themselves and locked into their own personal world of torture. Because actually, selfishness is rather miserable.
12. Family prayer time
"God, we lift up each one of our family members to You today. We pray Your richest blessing on their lives. Help us to serve one another in love today. Help us to be patient with each others' weaknesses and kind when things don't go our way. We love You, Lord, and choose to die to ourselves, take up our cross and follow you today. Amen."
I believe number 12 is our best hope. How about you!?
Image: Lynn Friedman “Teens Together Staring At Their Cell Phones” via Flickr Creative Commons
License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic